A record turnout for first GW glimpse

Incoming freshmen motioned for Michael O’Leary to turn around the upside-down GW towel he waived during the Colonial Inauguration closing session Saturday morning.

O’Leary, senior associate director for admissions, joked that the University got a “great deal” on the yellow and blue towels, GW’s traditional CI parting gift to new students, because “the printer put our logo on upside down.”

The University will need at least 2,550 towels for this year’s record freshman class, which brought higher-than-usual numbers to the first two sessions of CI, GW’s three-day freshman orientation program.

Mike Gargano, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said about 1,200 students, siblings and parents attended the first CI, held June 16-18, and about 1,050 people showed up last weekend.

Gargano attributed the increased parent participation to the number of parents sending their first son or daughter off to college. He said the CI orientations so far has fulfilled their goal of assuring “that students’ and parents’ selection of GW was in fact the correct choice.”

“You could just look at the smiles on the faces of students and parents,” Gargano said as new freshmen and their families streamed past him to hit the breakfast table in the Marvin Center after awaking for class registration at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

During Saturday morning’s closing session in Lisner Auditorium, which concluded the second of five orientation sessions, O’Leary told students and families that the CI staff was told keep them busy.

The previous two and a half days of events, he explained, were designed to overwhelm the participants both mentally and physically in order to give the incoming freshmen a preview of their new life as GW undergraduates.

CI, a largely student-run event organized through Student and Academic Support Services, is designed to acquaint incoming freshmen with many aspects of GW campus life and enables them to register for fall semester classes. According to the program’s Web site, CI offers parents the opportunity “to learn about University services, interact with prominent faculty and administrators and more.”

The site, gwired.gwu.edu/ci/index.html, features photographs and biographies of the entire Colonial Cabinet – the group of students selected to lead CI – a list of native GW lingo and an online version of the math placement test required for most new students.

The enhanced Web site and newly designed brochures
and signs displayed around campus demonstrate CI’s new image, intended to give the program a more technology-savvy appeal, said Pia Chowdry, a sophomore Cabinet member.

“CI has become more multi-media and more computer-oriented,” she said.

Chowdry said the online placement test, which students can take at home before attending their CI session, has made the program more efficient because it saves time during the event that can be used for other activities. Despite the success and popularity of the new feature, Chowdry said she is unaware of any plans for the language placement tests to go online in the future.

Not all students said they are comfortable with their introduction to online testing.

“I felt kind of weird taking (the math placement test) online,” said Aloka Dutta, an incoming freshman from New York City. Dutta said she didn’t feel as rushed taking the test at home.

Other changes around GW have also sparked the interest and concern of some CI participants, such as multiple ongoing campus construction projects.

“I know the construction is necessary, but I just hope I’m not near it,” Dutta said.

Jessica Landesman, a freshman from Missouri, said she worries about the “lack of guarantee” of campus housing during her GW career. She said the University’s failed to notify incoming students about a campus housing crunch, which caused a larger than normal housing waiting list.

“I’m really disappointed that we weren’t informed,” Landesman said.

Robert Chernak, vice president of student and academic support services, said new students and their parents should not be alarmed about possible housing shortages. GW leases with area apartments will provide enough housing for all students who signed up for it.

“There’s no sense in them anticipating something that’s not going to be a problem,” Chernak said.

Colonial Cabinet members and other event organizers said the first two CI sessions have been very successful, with the exception of occasional weather difficulties.

“Fortunately, if that’s the biggest problem, then we’re doing okay,” Chowdry said.

The next CI takes place June 26-28. Another orientation session is scheduled for the beginning of July, and the last CI for incoming freshmen will be held in mid-August, when international and transfer students visit for the first time.

-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.

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