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Student orientation program gets name change, undergoes redesign

April 18, 2019
	<p>Physiology junior Eric Bowden, far left, leads a group of incoming freshman on a walking tour of campus Monday on the first day of Academic Orientation Program.</p>

Physiology junior Eric Bowden, far left, leads a group of incoming freshman on a walking tour of campus Monday on the first day of Academic Orientation Program.

Photo by Kat Petersen | The State News

In the past year, Michigan State’s orientation program for new and incoming students has undergone a name change and restructuring.

What was formerly known as the Academic Orientation Program, or AOP, has become the New Student Orientation. The summer of 2019 will be the first with the redesigned orientation program. 

Mandatory orientations for new students are usually scheduled over the summer, prior to a student starting classes at MSU in the fall. The program consists of sessions where admitted students stay overnight on campus, enroll in their classes, talk to advisors and attend informational sessions about life on campus. This is “to help students transition into college life at MSU and provide them with a strong foundation for achieving their goals,” according to MSU’s Office of Admissions website

In a November 2018 interview with The State News Editorial Board, then-interim president John Engler said there would be a “complete redesign” of the AOP program, with the goal of taking a more “collaborative and integrative approach” with students. 

That resulted in the formation of New Student Orientation. Mark Largent, MSU’s interim Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, said in an email that changes to the orientation program were unrelated to other sweeping changes made to the Office of Admissions after a decrease in applicants in the last academic year. 

Former orientation program director Mary Beth Heeder left the position during the Fall 2018 semester. Then, in November 2018, Largent assigned four people to revamp the orientation program, according to a previous State News article.

Those four individuals implemented workshops to take input from students, staff, faculty and administrators on how to redesign the orientation program, according to previous statements from former deputy spokesperson Heather Young. They then presented a plan to implement the New Student Orientation. 

Their goal for the program was to “make it even more effective in helping improve undergraduate student learning and success,” Young said via email. 

A search to hire a new student orientation director is currently being conducted, according to Largent. A search for a new associate director of New Student Orientation has also begun, and Largent said via message the positions should be in place by mid-summer.

Acting President Satish Udpa — who took over after Engler’s departure in January 2019 — said he and Provost June Youatt supported a transition to the revised program. 

“One of the things I’d like to see happen and the provost would like to see happen is that when students come in, they are introduced to the university properly, that they are made aware of the resources that we have on campus properly,” Udpa said.

The revised program will better allow the university to advise new students on proper behavior and the resources available for them to take advantage of, according to Udpa.

The program also acts as a way to give unfamiliar students a taste of university life before they begin living and studying on campus, he said. 

“This is … for students who come from communities that are small, and they’re not used to a large campus,” Udpa said. “It’s wiser that we take care of them. We also have a large group of foreign students who are coming to this country for the first time.”

Students admitted for the Fall 2019 semester will go through the new program in May, June, July and August this summer, and students admitted for Spring 2020 will go through the program in January.

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