Changes to orientation will save time, money for incoming students

Rachel Greenland, Reporter

The class of 2024 can expect more than just new dorms, a new end zone in Kidd Brewer Stadium and new faces on App State’s campus. Their orientation and welcome weekend schedules will also look different from the students’ who preceded them.

Beginning this summer, all incoming first-year students will attend one day of orientation rather than the two-day overnight model used in the past, and move to App State’s campus one day earlier than years prior. Nikki Crees, executive director of orientation, said the decision was made to share information at a more appropriate time for students and be more “economically sustainable” for families. 

The new one-day style of orientation will save families $40 on their first-year student fee. 

“If we’re not taking up that space in the residence hall, then (housing) could bring in additional groups that are wanting to come to campus for various camps and conferences and haven’t been able to because we’re taking up an entire two residence halls,” Crees said.

This change will also push some of the information sessions and orientation “traditions” to a reinvisioned welcome weekend, called “Welcome to App.” In the new model, students will move in on a Wednesday and Thursday in August, and Friday will hold some of the sessions that previously took place over summer orientation to make orientation less overwhelming for incoming students. 

“Friday, we’ll have academic advising meetings,” Crees said. “A really large meeting that’s going to focus on, ‘How do I get academic support? What do I need to know about changing my schedule and the first week of classes? How do I get help with that policy?’ (And) academic integrity.”

Crees said the departmental open houses and special population meetings like Appalachian Community of Education Scholars will move to the Friday after move-in day as well. Because of this, students will meet more of their peers within their major instead of just those in their major who attend a different summer orientation. 

Risqué Business/I am Appalachian will also move to welcome weekend, and Crees said some sessions will extend all the way to homecoming, when issues like homesickness are more applicable. She said the goal is to make the information “digestible.” 

Crees started working with Allison Dodson, director of parent and family services, in late spring 2019 to prepare for the continuous growth track of App State’s enrollment. Around the same time, the university expanded its typical 50 to 100 first-year student enrollment increase to 300 students for the class of 2024.

Crees and Dodson researched schools with one-day summer programs and longer welcome weekends, like James Madison University, and saw it worked well.

The new model will allow the university to potentially host Black and Gold Ceremony before classes begin so classes won’t be missed, but some staples will remain.

Emily Motsinger, a returning Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader — better known as SOUL — and sophomore social work major, said she’s excited for the change because it will be a new experience and give her the opportunity to meet even more students. 

Motsinger said while she’ll miss the overnight activities like cardio dance and schedule making, she looks forward to helping out with both during welcome weekend.

“I definitely think that we are going to be a part of it because that’s one of our big changes is that we’re going to be working with welcome weekend a lot more,” Motsinger said.

Lexi Hargesheimer, senior electronic media broadcasting major, said the overnight portion helped her feel more at home during summer orientation, but that couldn’t replace some of the other App State traditions she has been a part of over her four years.

“I’ve really loved going to football games and also how when it snows heavily on campus,” Hargesheimer said. “I’ve always loved how everyone who lives on campus will just hang out together on Sanford Mall or on West (Campus) and sled down the hills we have here.”

Despite the changes to orientation, Crees said the enrollment at the university would only continue to grow past 2020, but it is “manageable” this year.