Ithaca College is still developing plans for Fall 2021 orientation for the Class of 2025, which will take place over the course of three days.
According to an Intercom post, freshman orientation will take place on campus from Aug. 19 to 21 before classes begin Aug. 23. The post stated that there will be one buffer day, Aug. 18, between move-in and orientation, which is dependent on the potential COVID-19 testing model the college will have in place. Move-in will take place from Aug. 16 to 17 for freshmen and from Aug. 19 to 20 for sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Family and supporter orientation will take place virtually in early August. Orientation for transfer students will take place Aug. 20.
Kevin Perry, associate director of the Department of New Student and Transition Programs (NSTP), said that he expects orientation to be similar to Fall 2019 because part of it will be in person but that it will be shorter than both the Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 orientations.
Fall 2020 orientation was shortened from one week to five days because students, staff and faculty disliked the eight-day long orientation held in Fall 2019. The Fall 2020 orientation was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will be a much briefer program than either of the last two years because of some of the information and resources we have been able to share virtually,” Perry said via email. “With COVID restrictions still a bit unknown, we are planning for some really engaging resource sharing in the summer to hold space for programs intentionally designed to build community in the fall.”
Perry said the planning for Fall 2021 orientation will be similar to NSTP’s planning for Spring 2021 Welcome Week. NSTP collaborated with the Office of Admission, the Student Activities Board, the Residence Hall Association and the Office of Residential Life to host Welcome Week for all students. Throughout February 2021, they hosted in-person and virtual programming for students, like campus tours and virtual movie nights.
“We will build out a structure knowing what we know now, planning for some hopeful things, and then also acknowledge that as we get closer, we need to make some calls about what we can reasonably do,” Perry said. “The interest is once again prioritizing safely designed, exciting programs for students to come together and meet one another.”
Senior Quentin Hernandez said he worked as an orientation leader for Fall 2019 and an orientation coordinator for Fall 2020. He said the online format of the Fall 2020 orientation allowed NSTP to gain a new perspective about how students can complete some requirements online before coming to campus, like registering for courses.
“I think it’s actually great that we’re able to realize what online resources are available to students now,” Hernandez said. “Then … once we’re all in person, we can really focus on some more fun and community–building activities.”
Sophomore Abby McGuire said she worked as an orientation leader for Fall 2020 and said she will be working as an orientation coordinator for Fall 2021. McGuire said the all-virtual orientation was a unique process and said she is looking forward to seeing how it compares to Fall 2021.
“It was difficult sometimes to feel like we were reaching students, which I’m sure you know, some professors feel that way with these virtual semesters, that sort of thing,” McGuire said. “There were little pockets of joy and kind of connections that made us feel like we were on the right path.”
She said she is hopeful that most of orientation will be in person and that COVID-19 rates will be better around the country and in Ithaca. As of May 4, there have been 4,192 cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins County and 267 at the college. Tompkins County has 44 active cases, and the college has 5 active cases — four residential students and one staff member.
“My own orientation was in person, and I know how much confidence that gave me in my ability to know, ‘I can do this, I can be a college student, I can, I can survive in this situation very well,’” McGuire said. “I’m hoping that with the next semester supposed to be in person, I’m hoping we can give students an in-person orientation experience, so they feel like they’re prepared.”
Junior Paige Ewer said it will be her first time being an orientation leader in Fall 2021. She said she would assume large lessons and information sessions, like lessons on sexual assault and drinking, would be online. She said she is hopeful that small group interactions and campus tours will be in person.
“I think I’m excited for that in-person interaction, just since a lot of these students, there’s a good chance they didn’t get to tour the college,” Ewer said. “It’s probably one of the first big exciting things that’s happening in the last two years for them. So I’m excited to be a part of that opportunity and really help them see how many different things they can get involved in on campus, even with the pandemic still happening.”
Ewer said her biggest concern is making sure that everyone follows the COVID-19 guidelines set in place by the college. There have been hundreds of COVID-19 guideline violations at the college over the course of the spring semester.
“I have a feeling that, right away, they might want to just start seeing and hanging out with as many people as possible to find their group of friends,” she said. “And then remembering we still are possibly going to be under strict, strict rules. And they have to follow those rules unless we all want to risk the chance of not being in person for all our classes in the fall.”