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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Justice Movement

Online orientations to emulate in-person version through social, academic offerings

New student orientations will be held online but will follow the original schedule. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Samantha Fredberg

May 14, 2020 7:38 pm

New student orientations will move online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orientation dates will follow the original schedule, said Roxanne Neal, the assistant vice provost of UCLA’s New Student and Transition Programs.

Just like they have in the past, orientations will include three-day sessions for first-years, one-day sessions for transfers and one-day sessions for parents and families. All sessions will offer live presentations, introductory videos and interactive components with new student advisors and peers, Neal said.

“We’re trying to emulate everything that we had in the programming from the in-person version in the versions we’re creating right now,” Neal said.

Incoming students can sign up for orientation beginning June 3 on MyUCLA. Before their session, they will receive a Zoom link for their orientation group, in which they will participate in group discussions and information sessions. Students will still have one-on-one academic advising and class enrollment sessions with their NSAs over Zoom, Neal said.

Emma Ke, an incoming first-year undeclared student from New Jersey, said she is worried in-person socialization will not translate to the online sessions.

“I watched a bunch of YouTube videos, and a lot of them said, ‘Oh yeah, you make most of your friends at freshman orientation,’” Ke said. “Since it’s virtual, it’s going to be pretty hard to do that.”

Nicole Muttera, an incoming first-year physiological sciences student from San Diego, said being close to the school has helped her make a smooth transition.

“Thankfully, my roommate lives in San Diego with me, so we can hopefully meet, and I’ve actually gone up to see the campus already,” Muttera said. “I just don’t really know what happens in each of the buildings, so orientation would’ve been nice in that aspect. It would have been exciting to meet a ton of people.”

NSTP is working to create opportunities for students to bond over Zoom, Neal said.

“I think the bigger areas where a lot of students connect are in their smaller groups with their NSA, and that obviously will still be there,” she said. “We’re creating some programming where the groups get to just hang out and talk about transitioning to college and what they’re excited about doing.”

Students will still be able to attend an activities fair. Normally, orientation sessions include the Summer in the Union Activities Fair to introduce students to various organizations on campus. The online fair will host an unlimited number of student organizations, which will make it comparable to the Enormous Activities Fair held during week zero, Neal said. Incoming freshmen will use Zoom to talk to representatives from student groups about their organizations.

Typically, transfer orientation does not include an activities fair due to its time constraint. However, the flexibility of the online platform allows it to also be offered to transfer students, Neal said.

Though some aspects of orientation will be moved online, in-person campus tours and “Bruintizing” ceremonies will still take place when students return to campus. In the meantime, virtual tours will be given instead, Neal said.

“I was really looking forward to being on campus for orientation,” said Yvette Stoffels, an incoming transfer third-year physiological sciences student from Portland, Oregon. “There’s so much more emotion and excitement with meeting new people, attending in-person seminars and even the dumb stuff like picking out my outfit and getting ready for the day. Instead, my first impression is over FaceTime in my pajamas.”

International students will have some time zone flexibility because of the large number of presentations that will be recorded, Neal said. For one-on-one live appointments, NSTP will try to match students with advisors at times that work for both of them.

“We’re trying our hardest to work out solutions where the international students won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to take an appointment,” Neal said.

Incoming first-year economics student Meha Mukherjee lives in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which is 11 hours ahead of the time in Los Angeles.

“I’m staying up pretty late anyways because there’s not much to do, so I would be fine with (late meetings) because I think I would be up anyways,” Mukherjee said. “If a certain time would be convenient for someone in California, then I’d be fine with conforming to that, especially if it’s something that will help me, like academic advising.”

If orientation had been held in person, Mukherjee said she would not have attended because of the long flight. She added that the opportunity to attend an online orientation might provide her with information she might not have received under normal circumstances.

Many are also concerned about the possibility of fall quarter moving online.

“One of the reasons I chose UCLA is that there’s a whole new experience to be in Los Angeles compared to New Jersey. I feel like we’re going to be missing a lot on that,” Ke said. “I could be going to community college at home doing the same thing.”

Current high school seniors who lost their prom and graduation could potentially lose their start of college too, Muttera said.

“For two years I’ve been working my butt off to get into UCLA, and now that I’ve achieved my goal, everything is online,” Stoffels said.

NSTP will send all incoming students who sign up for orientation a package with all of the merchandise they would have received if they had attended in person, Neal said.

“We’re spending our creative time thinking, ‘How can we make this as fantastic as we can under these circumstances?’” Neal said. “We really want to show the students that we are so excited that they’re coming to UCLA and becoming Bruins with the rest of us. We’re trying to make it an experience where they really look forward to fall quarter and their new journey.”

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Samantha Fredberg
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