Class of 2019 engages in a week of revamped orientation activities

By Sam Fossum
For The News-Letter

COURTESY OF SAMHITA ILANGO Deans spoke to freshmen on Homewood Field about academic, residential and social life on campus.

COURTESY OF SAMHITA ILANGO
Deans spoke to freshmen on Homewood Field about academic, residential and social life on campus.

As this year’s freshman class was welcomed to the Hopkins community, the new Coordinator of Orientation and First Year Experience, Justin Beauchamp, made changes to orientation that hopes to make the week have a more lasting impression.

This year’s New Student Orientation was structurally similar to previous years. However, the First Year Mentor (FYM) training program, sexual assault education and Baltimore Day were all altered.

FYMs are undergraduate students selected through an application process to serve as mentors for freshmen during orientation week.

Beauchamp stressed the importance of FYMs and the selective process that current students who wish to participate go through. They first submit applications and then attend both a group and an individual interview. Once selected, FYMs participate in a week long training process just prior to orientation.

Beauchamp envisions FYM training as more than just preparation for one week of orientation.

“I like to consider that the training is something that’s useful for them outside of orientation and that they can take those skills they learned during their training and then apply them to their academic careers,” Beauchamp said.

Sophomore FYM Brian McConnell thought the training process was especially worthwhile.

“I not only received training in leadership and group dynamics but I also learned or re-learned numerous things about our University and our resources,” McConnell said. “Additionally, I feel fortunate to have a deeper and more structured understanding of sensitive but significant topics like diversity, inclusion and gender violence.”

However, some FYMs like sophomore Jesse Zhan felt the training program was overdone.

“As an FYM leader, I thought the orientation program itself was very rewarding. I loved getting to know freshmen and aiding in their transition to college. However, the training to become an FYM leader was excessive,” he said.

Sophomore FYM Nicholas Longson described the training as repetitive.

Another change to this year’s program was how sexual assault prevention and other Title IX issues were addressed. The previous program, Sex Signals, is formatted as humorous, interactive performed scenes.

This year, the material was covered by a speaker, Tim Mousseau, who is a part of the Campuspeak organization. He connected well with the students with his personal stories.

“I heard last year that the talk about sexual abuse was a total mistake so I feel like this year was a big improvement and people walked out the door pretty satisfied,” freshman Tarush Gupta said. “I’ve been to lots of these talks back in school, but this year’s speaker spoke from experience so it was different and more relatable for the student body.”

Mousseau’s talk was also beneficial for the FYMs.

“Tim Mousseau was an amazingly effective speaker. He was able to engage the audience and really impressed me with his presentation skills,” McConnell said. “Also, his message is one that all people mature enough ought to learn and understand because I think it is easy for people to believe that they are distant from the issues Tim talks about — but this only makes the issues tougher on those not so fortunate.”

Another significant change to this year’s program was building off of Baltimore Day. Similar to last year, the students began by listening to the same presentation after which they met up with their FYM group and went into city. This year there were more locations visited within each area, and the students were shown around by members of the community or a Hopkins professor. For example, the groups visiting Little Italy were shown neighborhood landmarks by Eugenio Refini, an assistant professor in Italian studies.

Other neighborhoods visited included Federal Hill, Fells Point, Mt. Vernon, Druid Hill, Station North, Inner Harbor and Bolton Hill.

After returning to campus, the day concluded with three speakers who talked about their experience with Hopkins in Baltimore. New students listened to a student, a faculty member and an alum living in Baltimore.

COURTESY OF SAMHITA ILANGO Students relax on campus while talking with their First Year Mentors.

COURTESY OF SAMHITA ILANGO
Students relax on campus while talking with their First Year Mentors.

“This year the time was broken up, allowing my FYM group to visit Federal Hill, have a tour of a nearby neighborhood and visit the American Visionary Arts Museum,” Girod said. “Baltimore is such a unique place to live, and I think it was a great idea to allow the student to easily explore more aspects of it in one day.”

Freshmen had generally positive responses.

“Personally I enjoyed orientation a lot, but it was super stressful — constantly meeting hundreds of people. But I had such an amazing time that I can’t imagine it going any other way,” freshman Abby Shegelman said.

Freshman Chaim Chernoff also shared his response.

“I think my favorite part of orientation was meeting people. There was a good amount of down time just to meet people. They didn’t try to force it,” Chernoff said.

Beauchamp is a firm believer in the continuous rebirth of the program.

“I think, in general, orientation should be revisited and revamped every year because nothing’s ever perfect and you always want to improve.”

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