Brandon University is kicking off the Fall Term with a blended approach to the traditional Welcome Week and Orientation activities.
The campus will see more in-person classes, services, and activities starting this week, although BU is continuing a cautious approach to keep everyone safe and healthy. That means larger classes will continue to be remote or online-only, many services will have online options, and a lot of the typical Orientation activities have been reimagined as well.
“Orientation is so much more than just showing people around. It’s also about making sure everyone feels welcomed, involved, and excited to start a great academic year,” said Erin Mills, BU’s Director of Recruitment and Retention, who is overseeing Orientation activities. “We are also working closely with the Students’ Union to coordinate Welcome Week events pretty much all September.”
Orientation begins today with a series of fun online sessions that combine social activity with valuable information about how to take advantage of all that’s offered on campus.
While in-person Orientation activities are limited, and being conducted with careful attention to Covid-19 precautions, Mills says that in some ways those physical aspects are more important than ever.
“Everyone is a lot more comfortable with Zoom than we used to be, and we can link a lot of people together quickly and efficiently using video. It also means students can revisit that information easily whenever they need to in the future,” she said. “But BU is built around the importance of personal interaction and small class sizes. And everyone is eager to start making new friends.”
Because so many of last year’s incoming student learned entirely remotely, Mills says there is a greater need for Orientation services this year than ever before.
“If you were a first-year student last year, you had a very unusual year, mostly online, and this may be your first year on campus,” she said. “Some of our second-year students are on a first-name basis with folks in Student Services, but may have no idea where our office is.”
Small-group tours to help students get the lay of the land will be on offer, with info desks also set up in the BU courtyard to answer questions.
Meanwhile, new BU faculty and staff have also been welcomed to the campus community over the past few weeks with a series of orientation sessions of their own.
“One of the things I love about BU is our sense of community, and it’s been fun to share that with people who are new to us,” said Erica Brown, BU’s Learning & Organizational Development Program Manager, who is running the new staff orientation. “Along with the nuts and bolts of how the university operates, we’re bringing people into the fold with a real sense of welcome.”
Like the student orientation, Brown said that new faculty and staff were able to take advantage of an online approach.
“Rather than a single, jam-packed day, which can sometimes overload people with information, doing things digitally gives us the flexibility to stretch things out,” Brown said. “It also means a chance to try new approaches, like online welcome messages from departments across campus during the sessions, which helps share some of every area’s personality.”
About 25 new faculty and staff were welcomed through the orientation sessions. Although student enrolment typically fluctuates for the first few weeks, Brandon University is welcoming more than 3,300 students to the 2021–22 academic year, including more than 750 for the first time.
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