Nearly 200 freshmen pored over course catalogues, grilled their advisers, and connected with other new students this week at Portland State University’s first mandatory orientation session.
Requiring new students to attend orientation is part of the University’s strategy to improve retention and graduation rates, one of President Wim Wiewel’s top goals. About one in five freshmen in the Oregon University System don’t return for their sophomore year, and 40 percent don’t graduate within six years.
“Student success begins when one enters the University,” said Jackie Balzer, Vice Provost for Student Affairs. “We don’t want to leave success to chance, so we are creating a tighter web of support.”
For the first time, the University is requiring all new students to attend a day-long advising and registration session over the summer before they can enroll in fall courses. About 4,750 freshmen and transfer students are expected to participate in one of 17 sessions before fall term starts on Sept. 27.
Jessey Clarke, who came to the first session from the Sacramento area with her mother, said picking classes was “a little overwhelming,” but orientation made it easier. She chose PSU over universities in California for its graphic design and photography programs.
“It’s definitely a good idea to have to come up here for orientation,” Clarke said. “It’s kind of like holding your hand a little bit.”
PSU already had a strong participation rate in orientation, but PSU made it a requirement this year because “we believe in it so much,” Balzer said. Incoming students who attend orientation have a higher grade-point average at the end of their first year than those who don’t, according to the University’s statistics. Orientation includes topics such as “Top 10 Tips for College Success” and “Why Wasn’t I Told This Four Years Ago?!”
Clarke’s mother, Dyan Clarke, said the PSU campus was welcoming and made them feel valued and important. The orientation feels “very genuine and less generic” than events at other universities she has attended with her daughter, she said.
Bailey Ellis-Wiard, an incoming freshman from Eugene who plans to study English and Theater Arts, said the most helpful part of orientation was talking to her orientation leader and other new students in a small group.
“It felt comfortable,” she said. “I think it’s a good experience and a nice way to integrate people who are coming from farther away.”
New students are encouraged to return to campus Sept. 20-26, the week before classes start for Viking Days, formerly called New Student Week, a chance for students to connect with the academic, cultural and social opportunities at PSU.
For more details about PSU’s orientation activities, go to www.pdx.edu/orientation.
Orientation schedule: (All sessions are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
Freshmen: Tuesday, July 6; Thursday, July 8; Saturday, July 17; Friday, Aug. 6; Thursday, Aug. 12; Saturday, Aug. 21
Transfer students: Thursday, July 1; Saturday, July 10; Tuesday, July 13; Thursday, July 15; Tuesday, Aug. 10; Tuesday, Aug. 17; Thursday, Aug. 19
International students: Monday, Sept. 20
Viking Days: Sept. 20-26