Incoming students will get to know their new home virtually

Rachel Greenland, Reporter

A Union Academy Charter School senior has looked forward to stepping on campus as a Mountaineer since she was a child, but she will have to wait a little bit longer before making Boone her home. 

Elle Brislin, along with all other new students, will attend summer orientation online.

Nikki Crees, executive director of orientation, said her team is working to keep orientation “as personal as possible.” The schedule will remain nearly the same but will take place through Zoom calls, pre-recorded information and streamed sessions. Students will also attend virtual orientation on their original orientation date.

“Students will still get an opportunity to be in a Zoom meeting with 10 to 12 other students and an adviser, and they’ll be asking questions and meeting each other,” Crees said. “So, there will still be some of the opportunity to engage with other students.”

Brislin said she chose App State because her parents went there, and she loves the culture of the campus. She said she went to Boone and App State football games all the time growing up.

“I definitely understand why it was moved online,” Brislin said. “But, it definitely is upsetting because it’s a good way to start to meet people.”

All UNC System schools will host their orientations online, but Crees said App State did have a head start moving its orientation to a virtual format. Over the past year, App State reorganized its orientation schedule, confining activities to one day and moving some things to the fall welcome weekend.

“I think (it) was a little bit easier for us to say, ‘We can take this current schedule and what we have established, and we can make it work for virtual until they come back,’” Crees said.

The university is also preparing for students and families that may have limited to no internet access or virtual devices. Crees said students who have a computer through their high school can move to an earlier orientation date to get the information before they have to return the device at the end of the school year.

“If they absolutely don’t have internet, or they’re just not going to be able to do this, we’re going to push those students off until August to give us a little more time,” Crees said.

This additional time will allow Crees and her team to work on a “case-by-case” basis with these students and record information that can be accessed at any time.

The parent and family activities, however, required some maneuvering. In the case that a family only has one device or a working parent, the parent can review pre-recorded information at a later time, Crees said.

As for the student orientation undergraduate leaders, Crees said they are getting familiar with hosting Zoom meetings and breakout sessions. She said the university will not decide if SOULs will be doing this from campus or their own homes until mid-May.

Sophomore Emily Motsinger is returning as a second-year SOUL. She said she is still just as excited for this summer. 

“We’re still going to be helping them make their schedules, and we’re still going to be trying to connect them with resources that we think will benefit them, connecting with other students,” Motsinger, a social work major, said. “It will just all be kind of drawn out a little bit, like getting in contact with them via email a few weeks before their actual orientation date.”

Motsinger said she and the other SOULs will work extra hard to make the new students feel at home.

“Because we’ve partnered with Welcome Weekend (and are) extending that a few days, then we’re going to have a lot more opportunities for them to get to know (other students), and feel more comfortable before the first day of classes,” Motsinger said. “There’s a lot coming up, even though it’s not ideal right now. There’s going to be so many opportunities.”