University Officials Pilot New Orientation Programming

February 1, 2004

Ashley Lord, <i>Hullabaloo</i> news co-editor

Beginning this summer, pilot programs across the country will offer incoming freshmen the ability to take care of the administrative end of Orientation before arriving in the fall. The sessions will offer new students the ability to take Accelerated Placement tests, writing exams, language proficiency tests and may include presentations on safety in New Orleans and individual college information sessions.

"Everything we've heard from students is that they love move-in and the social programming around it," Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Denise Taylor said. "They never complain about the social programming. They only complain about the administrative things that they describe as simply being too much to take in all at once."
One advantage new students may obtain from voluntarily participating in the pilot workshop, Taylor said, is the ability to take part in more social programming in the fall. "If they do these things over the summer, then once they get here they have a better opportunity to do a variety of other programs," she said. "Perhaps if these pilot programs do work, we will be able to create more social opportunities for all students once they get here, since everyone will have more time."

Once the 2004 Orientation ends, Taylor, current Director of Orientation Lilia Valdez-Lindsley and numerous other University officials will analyze responses from the students who went through the pilot programs.

"We are going to be looking at the differences between the people that come over the summer, as compared to those that do everything in August," Taylor said. "We are going to ask them if they feel better prepared at Tulane due to the pilots. We are going to ask if they have a better idea of how to be successful, and we'll take it from there."

Along with the pilot programs, another change to Orientation will involve allowing the entire freshman class to experience pieces of the NOLA program. The program introduces freshmen to the sights and sounds of New Orleans. In the past, NOLA has been thought to give its participants a more personal experience due to the small number of students that take part in it, and Taylor wants all students to have these personalized memories.

"When you have 1,600 students, it's hard to create communities and give the freshmen any sort of intimate experience, so we are trying to refocus the NOLA program to allow for more students to experience this personal nature by creating small groups," Taylor said.

Valdez-Lindsley said the ability for all students to take part in NOLA could allow for more students to become better leaders while at Tulane. "There is a myth that to be a leader you have to start out at Tulane in NOLA," Valdez-Lindsley said. "We want to debunk this myth that only a few people can lead. Why does there only have to be 50 or however many people take part in the program that become leaders? Why can't there be 1500 leaders?"

However, the expansion of the NOLA program has concerned some students. Some say the inclusion of the entire freshman class may be the first step toward the university canceling the NOLA program entirely, by simply phasing it out. A group of approximately 20 of these students met with Valdez-Lindsley Dec. 3 to discuss the changes to the program.

"I think that most of us expressed that despite new pilot programs that may contain NOLA-like elements and changes to Orientation overall, we don't want to see the original program, as we know it, completely disappear," Newcomb senior and meeting organizer Kathryn Spruill said. "The new changes may be successful, and we all hope that they are, but there is a possibility that they could also fail miserably."

Taylor assures the students, though, that NOLA will not be totally taken away. Instead she "plans to let it evolve." This overall evolution will include the administrative structure of Orientation as well. Taylor said the Office of Student Affairs is dividing the job of the director of Orientation into two separate positions, one that will handle the student Orientation and another, which Valdez-Lindsley will hold, that will cover the new parents' Orientation the office is planning. This new parent programming will be targeted toward educating parents of incoming freshmen apart from their students.

"What the parents want to hear isn't exactly what the students want to hear, so we are giving them their own set of programming," Taylor said.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000