This year’s Orientation for new and transfer students is about forging links to the community – the class, the College and the Sarasota-Manatee community as a whole.
“Orientation is about helping students successfully transition into the Novo community,” said Dr. Robin Williamson, dean of student affairs, “and how their story combines with our collective community story.”
It all starts Saturday, Aug. 19, with a welcome lunch for students and families. “It’s a great way for our new students and their families to connect with each other,” said Williamson.
Then it’s the first of what the team calls “creating traditions,” with a class picture on Z-Green, and after initial orientation group meetings and talks, a walk to the Bayfront to watch their first New College sunset. (There will be transportation for students unable to walk.)
Orientation also will use this year’s Common Read, “Make Your Home Among Strangers” by Jennine Capó Crucet, as a means of building connections. Students’ Orientation groups will discuss the novel, about a young woman from a Cuban immigrant family headed to college, as a way to explore issues about starting college, and to get warmed up for New College’s hallmark of small classes with rigorous discussion of texts.
The academic infusion also includes introductions to a new course, Discover SRQ, developed by Dr. Uzi Baram, professor of anthropology and director of the College’s Public Archaeology Lab, with Andrea Knies, assistant director of the Center for Engagement and Opportunity.
In the course, students will learn about the region, meet heritage professionals, develop skills in observing and documenting places, and help preserve the region’s heritage. The Orientation program kicks this off with tours of the College’s historic buildings and optional trips to local historical sites.
“We want students connected to the local community as well as the New College community,” said Williamson.
A new feature during Orientation this year: Student leaders from the New College Student Alliance will introduce newcomers to the student government, including a mock Towne Meeting, the College’s form of inclusive, open student government, where attendees will be able to discuss and pass legislation.
Another new program is intended to get students talking and to build bonds. “Dear World” is a sort of group photojournalism event, derived from a community project in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Participants are invited to write a short statement on their bodies, typically hands and arms, with their thoughts on the theme, “Human Connection.” Photographs of the students and their statements will be compiled for viewing by the public.
The event is set for Aug. 31, after returning students arrive, so it is open to the entire New College campus community. Students at colleges in the Cross College Alliance — including nearby Ringling College and USF Sarasota Manatee – also are invited to participate.
The messages can be “the stories that we have and the experiences that we’ve had that influence how we see the world, how we interact with the world,” said Tara Centeno, director of campus activities and student engagement. “That’s what this is, a chance to share a glimmer of those experiences and to share that message with someone else, with the world.”
Perhaps the high point, so to speak, of Orientation will be the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. In Sarasota, viewers will see a partial eclipse and Orientation planners are making sure students don’t miss out. “We’ll welcome all those on campus to Z Green to see it together,” said Williamson.
The College will outfit all participants with special glasses so they can safely watch the eclipse from Z-Green – weather permitting, that is.
It’s such a rare event that “Tropical Eclipse” became the theme of Orientation 2017. “Our theme will be woven throughout the week,” said Williamson. “It will connect all the experiences in order to fully welcome them into this tropical place.“