Officials said the Division for Student Affairs will launch a “comprehensive” virtual New Student Orientation throughout the month of August.
Starting Aug. 1, the DSA will host a month-long virtual New Student Orientation consisting of online modules with “interactive content” and “virtual live events” leading up to the first day of classes. Colette Coleman, the senior associate dean of students, said the virtual orientation will have similar programming to years past focusing on community, diversity and inclusion, academic engagement, living on campus, health and well-being and student rights and responsibilities.
“From the moment a student commits to become part of the GW community, our goal is to provide our new students – both incoming first-year and transfer students – with opportunities to connect with each other, learn more about their new community, get involved and become equipped with resources,” Coleman said in an email. “We do realize that this year, classes and our on-campus residential experience is going to be different for all of us.”
Coleman said officials will hold sessions on how the University is responding to COVID-19 to share expectations for students navigating the new environment. She said officials are floating the idea of holding “smaller-scaled socially-distanced” events organized by student orientation leaders in outdoor areas and will let students know about any in-person programming opportunities as the move-in time period gets closer.
“While most of the getting to know campus orientation sessions will be held in online formats, we do recognize the importance of finding in-person connections within our community,” Coleman said.
Last fall was the University’s first time hosting a new student orientation over the course of five days in the week leading up to classes, replacing Colonial Inauguration, a six-session summer program that was previously scheduled throughout the summer. The new virtual orientation programming comes as GW awaits city approval to resume in-person classes in August with social distancing guidelines amid the ongoing pandemic.
Coleman said DSA has been in communication with campus partners throughout the planning process to determine ways officials may be able to weave some of the “current national discussion” into programming.
Coleman said DSA has been reaching out to incoming freshmen since May through a biweekly email newsletter called Next Stop GW. She said all new students are receiving a new Buff & Blue Book that will accommodate for “any potential changes” during the summer and provide “vital” information for students to learn about campus.
She said incoming students interested in learning more about their college experience can also tune into Real Talk GW, a summer podcast that a group of students and the Office of Student Life present to discuss culture, finance, money management and current events.
Coleman said DSA officials are reviewing the results of a survey recently sent out to incoming students’ families on what would be most helpful for their acclimation. She said new students’ families are invited to attend Tuesday Talks, a webinar series aimed at discussing resources like academic support and the Student Services Hub and requirements like what immunizations and health insurance are required for incoming students.
“Even in a typical year, the transition from high school into college can be a bit overwhelming for any student,” Coleman said. “Students often depend on a support network at home and on campus during this transition. This year, we recognize that there may be more uncertainty than in previous years and are looking for additional ways to connect our GW families with what’s happening within our community.”
Amy Cohen, the executive director of the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement, said the Nashman Center plans to host Welcome Days of Service over several days instead of last year’s one-day event. She said students will select an option to participate in virtual, remote or in-person service and educational workshops or training on Aug. 29 and Saturdays in September.
“The Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service will host Welcome Days of Service over several days this year, with the kick-off during the last week of orientation,” Cohen said in an email.