Catholic University’s First Online Orientation


Image courtesy of The Catholic University of America

By Claire Prudhomme

Orientation will be held entirely online for students this year as a result of COVID-19.

The four-day virtual program for new students and transfer students will begin on Thursday, August 20. 

The Catholic University of America made the decision to move orientation completely online shortly after the D.C. mayor’s decision that people coming from states with high amounts of Coronavirus cases must be quarantined for two weeks. An online format was thought to be the most appropriate in preparations to keep those coming on campus safe. 

This year’s program will include all the same programs of years past but in an online format. First-year students have already begun a seven-week summer orientation program called “Becoming a Cardinal.” First-year students were enrolled in this Blackboard course, and every week featured a video from a different office on campus to help inform students of opportunities and services available for them. 

This week’s orientation will begin with the university Welcome Session and will follow the same traditional concept of past in-person orientations. The program will continue with designated move-in day festivities, Program Board events, and different information sessions. These sessions will be hosted by different offices around campus like Disability Support Services, PEERS, Department of Public Safety, Campus Ministry, and more. 

There will be night events held by the Program Board, and meals will be provided throughout orientation week. The biggest difference will be the complete online basis of orientation. 

Orientation is key in properly equipping students with socialization opportunities and the introduction to campus. Sydney Hartman, one of the Student Coordinators for orientation, plays a major role in this socialization process and welcoming students on to campus. Hartman is a senior marketing major whose main goal is to welcome new students into the CUA community.

“My goal for orientation is to provide first-year students a positive start to college and offer a welcoming environment into our community,” Hartman said. “Especially this year, we have made it a priority to plan a great orientation for the first-years arriving on campus and the students who are taking their classes online.”

This orientation has been planned extensively to create this welcoming environment despite the circumstances. Meetings with orientation advisors (OA) will be held online, and different activities intended to introduce students to fellow CUA members will be held in interactive Zoom meetings.  

Two entirely new features of orientation are “Bon Voyage Tents” and “meal hangouts.” The meal hangouts are small Zoom group meetings that occur during typical meal times. Students are encouraged to move between small Zoom groups to meet new people and speak with their OAs. 

To ensure that everyone coming on campus will avoid excessive contact between different families, students are unable to congregate in the residence halls with their loved ones after their move-in times. The Bon Voyage tents will be located in the Opus and McMahon parking lots from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. on the different move-in days. 

Bon Voyage tents are intended to give students a special place to be with their families before they depart from campus, as students will be unable to say good-bye to their families as they have in the past. Students are able to go to their own individual tent and receive a blessing from student ministers, rest, and say good-bye to family with peace and privacy. 

The First-Year Experience has all the intentions of following the same scheduled activities as years past. First-year students will still be a part of the Learning Communities, D.C. excursions are being planned, and different student organizations are adapting to the online format to help maintain a college experience. 

Program Board plays a large role in adapting and entertaining first-year students in their new campus learning environment. Marissa Bruder, a rising junior and member of Program Board, says that like the rest of orientation, “all of Program Board’s events are virtual and online.”

Program Board will be hosting a multitude of night events on Zoom. Traditional orientation events like Cardinal Trivia and Big Win Bingo will be held virtually, as well as new events such as a movie night, a human iPod virtual show, a scavenger hunt, and more.

Orientation events will still be provided for parents despite not being allowed on campus. Traditional orientation information will be accessible on the Family Nest. Orientation still serves to familiarize parents with their students’ lives and to ease worries during this time of transition.
Though many challenges have prohibited a traditional in-person orientation for incoming students, the coordinators have worked tirelessly to make this year’s orientation as exciting and welcoming as any other year. For more information regarding orientation, a guideline is accessible online and a Zoom help center can be found at this link.

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