Fall orientations draw in larger, possibly largest class
With five orientation sessions completed and the last one happening this week, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Orientation faculty and student staff are preparing for the final round of what might be the largest incoming freshman class since 1998.
Orientation for the upcoming fall semester yielded a higher amount of students compared to last year. According to Lauren Sarver, director of orientation, an increase in orientation slots allowed more students to attend. Due to the increase — along with students that attend multiple university orientations before making their final decision — she said the class size will not be official until after the 14th day of class.
“I can’t make a guess or make an assumption that (the number) will be higher,” said Sarver.
Despite this, she expects an increase nonetheless, even if it does not break the record set by the 3,100 freshmen that enrolled 17 years ago.
“As our university grows and as our freshman class does increase — I’m not sure if it’s going to be a record this year, but it’s going to at least increase — we want to still provide enough orientations so that we can continue to grow over the years,” she said.
“It will be one of the largest, for sure,” said DeWayne Bowie, Ph.D., vice president for enrollment management to The Advertiser.
In response to the growing sizes, students will have an additional session to choose from next year. This change will bring numbers from 400 students per session to 350, as well as an extra option for incoming students. With orientation sessions taking place in the student union this year, the event program remained in order for staff members to see what works in the new facilities.
“Our biggest learning curve is learning our new space and also learning what we can do for next year and what we can’t have,” said Sarver. “We’re able to see what possibilities we have for next year, and will work to make programming changes.”
Despite the program staying the same, the new location created a different experience for returning Student Orientation Staff members.
“It actually is totally different from last year just because we have the student union this year and we’re able to use it for our purpose,” said senior biology major and SOS leader Rithika Thirumal.
Thirumal said the increase in students per session, while being a challenge at times, has not prevented SOS staff from being energetic throughout.
“Our staff has been very accommodating (of the increase), and it adds to our job of having (Discussion Groups), but (we are) still being able to connect to the (groups) although we went from 20 to 24 students per DG this year,” she said.
“We tried to connect to the students just as much even though we had a bigger class,” she continued.
“(The staff) really understands that (for) each student coming, it’s their first orientation although it’s (an SOS member’s) fifth or sixth time doing the orientation,” said Sarver. “They really get that, and I think they know how important it is to make sure each student’s experience is the same even if it’s their first orientation or their last.”
With one session left, Thirumal said SOS is prepared for an invigorating final orientation.
“It’s been an emotional week for us this past week just because we know this week is the end of orientation,” she said. “As a (lead staff member), me along with the six other members feel sad because it’s our last year on staff. It’s been a long journey.”
Sarver agreed and said the possibility of increasing at a higher rate is indicative of better student services.
“We have better facilities, housing, the union… Dr. Savoie is really working very hard to make sure we have… quality facilities for students. We’re attracting a better student (with) better GPAs, higher test scores,” she said.
When asked about the incoming freshman class, both Sarver and Thirumal said they noticed the incoming group’s enthusiasm.
“They look like they really want to be here, and we’re getting a lot more students that are determined to come here,” Thirumal said. “It’s not like we’re their second option… so that’s really great to see in the incoming students.
“They know what they want to do and they’re here to be done within four years and graduate… it’s encouraging to see young students so confident,” Thirumal continued.
Sarver said she noticed a trend starting with the 2014 group of incoming freshmen.
“I noticed a heightened sense of wanting to get involved, and since last year they have done a really great job of involvement with student government and getting out there and making their name known on campus,” she said. “I see that potentially continuing with this class because they are so engaged and excited about being here.”