Campus Life, ResLife announce changes to leadership roles in first-year orientation

New first-year students and their parents/guardians eat lunch on the President's Lawn during last semester's orientation on Aug 30, 2016. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

The orientation process for incoming first-year students will undergo changes beginning with the Class of 2021′s orientation in August. Orientation Leaders (OLs) will share responsibilities with First-Year Advisors (FYAs), who will perform the role of Resident Assistants (RAs) in first-year housing next year.

Howard Woolf, director of the Experimental College and associate dean of undergraduate education, explained that student OLs used to guide first-year students around campus during orientation, while RAs largely did not interact with the incoming students.

He added that this created confusion once orientation ended, because students no longer had OLs and were hesitant to reach out to RAs due to a lack of engagement with them during the orientation period.

“In accordance with student feedback, we are now progressing toward a focus on residence halls and making the FYAs the key people in the process, while the OLs will be available as academic support,” Woolf said.

Director for Campus Life Joe Golia remarked that the structure is changing in order to unify first-year students and make their transition into college smoother. He explained that in order to facilitate this, the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) will also be making changes.

Residential Life is aiming at housing first-years in the same location, so that they can be amidst students going through the same thing at the same time,” Golia said.

Several residence halls–namely Bush, Hill, Hodgdon, Houston, Miller, Tilton and Wilson–will be designated solely for incoming first-year students,according to Golia.

In addition, he explained that more responsibilities will be shifted to FYAs, who will live and interact with the students from the start of orientation until the end of the academic year.

FYAs, who will be living amongst the students, will be given the task of community building, in order to engage the first-years and make their freshman year a successful one,” Golia said.

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Chris Rossi said that the changes to the orientation process are directly linked to the reorganization of the first-year residential system.

“We identified an opportunity to anchor the first-year experience in individual residential communities,” Rossi told the Daily in an email. “Organizing orientation activities around floors allows new students to get familiar with resources for new students while building close connections with each other.”

Another new aspect to the leadership structure is the addition of Community Development Advisors (CDAs) that will live in upperclassmen residential buildings, Golia elaborated.

Tufts was one of the only colleges without any [student] advisors for upperclassmen, and so from this year on we will have CDAs to incorporate a support system for them,” Golia said.

Overall, Woolf summarized that the goal of the switch in responsibilities is to make orientation week a more logical and integrated experience.

“The increased involvement of FYAs is to make sure the orientation process makes more sense and reduces the stress of entering students,” Woolf said. “As a secondary benefit, the reduction of OL workload will lead to condensed time of training for leaders and also a way to cut costs.”

Golia emphasized that these changes are ultimately aimed at supporting first-year students throughout the year by housing them in the same location and offering them continued support.

“This way, students in the same situation — that is, moving to a new college — feel more welcome, more ready and more supported for their years in college,” he said.