Online student orientation debuts next week

While they aren't being invited to experience a beautiful campus this June, thousands of incoming Cyclones will take a step closer when they begin their student orientation next week online. The new student programs staff, led by director Sarah Merrill, has organized several hours worth of orientation modules students can complete at their own speed. New students will receive an email June 1 inviting them to begin their transition to Iowa State.

Her office serves as the first point of contact, but Merrill is quick to note it's not the only one.

"It's been a true partnership across campus. People who traditionally presented at orientation -- student financial aid, student activities, public safety, all the academic units, to name a few --found a way to virtualize that," she said.

Families on board

June orientation includes modules for families, too. Merrill also noted that the parent series in the admissions office's Cyclones Connect live workshops already has high participation.

Students will complete short units to learn more about paying for college, navigating campus, living and dining on campus, diversity and inclusion, campus safety, health and wellness services, identifying ways to get involved, student expectations, their academic program and home college, and registering for classes. When they finish the set, they'll sign up for an appointment with their academic adviser and register for fall semester classes.

"The campus community has set up an excellent online program, but we know there are going to be gaps and students and families are going to have questions," Merrill said. "They're going to want to connect with someone, so we ask [faculty and staff] to continue to be open to those personal interactions.

"That's still the Cyclone touch, and a little personal attention will help students make a positive transition to Iowa State," she added.

The goal, Merrill said, is to complete online orientation and course registration by the end of June -- because there's more to do.

New role for Cyclone Aides

Typically an integral part of June orientation on campus, the peer mentors known as Cyclone Aides will really step up in July. Each aide will have a new student cohort they'll spend time with, beginning online in early July and continuing through the annual Destination Iowa State campus event Aug. 20-22. Merrill said that mentoring will include group and one-on-one online interactions to help new students prepare to succeed on campus and meet classmates.

"We're trying to help with connections before students arrive in August," she said. "The intent is that students will meet each other during this experience and continue their transition to Iowa State."

Between orientation and Destination Iowa State, Merrill said new students also will be expected to complete online modules on helpful topics such as alcohol and mental health awareness to help them get off to a good start.

The additional summer programming will replace the week of welcome proposed earlier this spring that would have preceded Destination Iowa State and included family members. Merrill said the change allows everyone involved in Destination Iowa State to focus on making it a safe and meaningful experience for new students.