In This Together

By Patrick Bohn ’05, September 5, 2019
IC’s new fall orientation brings entire 2019 incoming class to campus.

In late August, more than 1,500 students arrived at Ithaca College prior to the start of classes for fall orientation — more than a week’s worth of events designed to bring students together as one community.

This year marked the first time all incoming students participated in a single orientation event. By arriving together in one large cohort, the students were able to connect with their peers in a more meaningful way.

“Orientation has allowed me to meet a lot of cool people I would have never imagined meeting,” said Jennifer Pitts ’23, a business administration major. “It was especially nice to meet people with the same interests I have, because I was with people in my major throughout the day.”

A young person looking through a telescope

Students use a telescope to view the night sky at one of many evening social events held during orientation. (Photo by Erin Clarke/Ithaca College)

During the week, students from each school took part in multiple academic blocks designed to welcome them to college and set them up for success in the classroom. Various blocks focused on ways to help students dive into a specific major, while others introduced them to their advisors and discussed ways to frame student success.

Additionally, students met in small groups for more concentrated discussions, and there was programming offered for family members of students — more than 700 of whom took part.

Each evening, students gathered for social events ranging from a paint-and-sip social to stargazing on the quad.

A new addition to the orientation slate was “We Are IC.” Moderated by Cornell Woodson ’09, the panel featured faculty, staff and alumni who shared their stories, discussed ways individuals from all walks of life can advocate for themselves, and talked about the role all community members can play in creating an inclusive campus. Students were urged to live authentically and with purpose, and to stay true to their passions.

One of the major aims of the new orientation structure was to provide opportunities for students to engage with multiple affinity groups throughout the week.

“Throughout the planning process we were really excited about the intersectional programming offered for our students who identify as first-gen, a student of color, a religious community, the LGBTQA+ community, and other important communities, and with the expansion of the program, we have been able to create a space for students to no longer feel the need to choose from competing programs,” said Kevin Perry, associate director of new student and transition programs.

One of the first such affinity events was a social and breakfast for commuter students.

A group of people sitting on a stage

Panelists at the “We Are IC” event reflected on their personal journeys and how students can help foster an inclusive campus environment. (Photo by Sheryl Sinkow/Ithaca College)

“A lot of schools have events just for resident students because usually the commuter student population is so small,” said Jeannette Rodriguez ’23, a film, photography and visual arts major who commutes from Watkins Glen, New York. “But with events like [the breakfast], it shows that the school cares about us too.”

Another popular event was the People of Color Social, which drew around 100 students and featured a DJ.

“I'm from New York City, so we're used to a lot of diversity, and up here it can be a bit difficult finding others who are minorities like [me],” said Aniqa Shafique ’23. “This feels really nice because I feel more at home.”

A similar effect came from the First Generation Social, which brought together students who were the first in their families to attend college, as well as first-gen faculty and staff members who were in their shoes years ago.

“Having a community of people that are in the [same] situation I am in makes this new and scary part of my life a little bit easier for me,” said Maddison Walsh ’23.

First-generation students also had the opportunity to come to campus for a couple of days prior to orientation as part of FIRST Look, a program that allows incoming first-gen students to get familiar with campus, meet with peers and connect with faculty and staff. Students also create a personal success plan with goals centered on involvement, academics, wellness and relationships.

There was also an LGBTQA+ social, which drew around 50 students and gave them a chance to meet members of the various LGBTQA+ groups on campus, such as Spectrum, PRISM, Keshet and IC Proud.

“It's been really cool to be able to see everyone around me who is also LGBT because, in a way, it's not really as scary,” said Marco Painter ’23.

Marshmallows roasting on an open fire

Students roast marshmallows to make s’mores at one of the nighttime orientation gatherings. (Photo by Whitney Rosenfeld/Ithaca College)

One of the final events of the week was a welcoming event for international students that featured s’mores by the pond at Muller Chapel. “I've been able to meet a bunch of new people, which is really great because we can all connect with the fact that we’re from different countries and we can learn about each other’s cultures,” said Eline Kroon ’23, who is originally from the Netherlands. “Plus, who doesn’t like s’mores?”

The entire class came together at one of the week’s biggest events: the summer carnival, held in the Campus Center Quad. With a relaxed atmosphere featuring frisbees, footballs, popcorn and a fire pit, it was the perfect chance for students to connect with future classmates.

“It was a lot bigger than I expected,” said Christian Schaffner ’23. “It's a great way to get out there and meet the community.”

The myriad different programs available were also a positive for students. “I really liked the variety of activities,” said Eleanor Speers ’22. “Last night, I wandered around campus and went to the silent disco and the Pride Party [hosted by Landon, Bogart and Clarke residence halls]. It's a cool way to find new things and meet new people.”

A major benefit of the new format is that, by transitioning right from orientation to classes, the friendships that developed during the week could continue seamlessly into the fall semester.

“Everyone seems so welcoming and happy to be here,” said Annelise Francey ’23, an emerging media major. “I'm excited for classes to start so I can be around people who are as glad to be here as I am.”

Hannah Fitzpatrick ’21 contributed to this story.