Welcome to the family!

The Strayer-Wood Theatre on the UNI campus is filled with students and their parents, each feeling a variety of emotions. Some are excited, some are a bit scared. Some are eager to start the next phase in life while others dread the unknown.

orientation tourNo matter what the emotion, everyone present is on the brink of something new: The students will become new UNI freshmen this fall; the parents will become empty nesters or have one less child at home. It’s a time of transition for everyone.

The Office of Admissions works to make this transition easier by welcoming incoming freshmen and their parents to campus for a two-day summer orientation session. During their stay, students and parents tour campus, participate in a variety of events, and meet UNI students, faculty and staff who are eager to help them learn what being a Panther is all about.

“There will likely be just more than 1,900 freshmen participate in summer orientation and approximately 2,300 parents,” said Kristin Woods, coordinator for new student programs.

“During orientation, our goal is for students to walk away with a better understanding of academic expectations and responsibilities and to gain a strong understanding of co-curricular activities to enhance classroom learning,” said Woods. “We also want them to make meaningful connections with faculty, their academic adviser, current students and other new freshmen.”

 orientation Eighteen UNI undergraduates serve as summer orientation staff members to help students reach those goals. Junior Sarah Duster, an orientation staff member from Dubuque with a double major in social sciences teaching and communication/theatre education, has found that students who attend orientation are excited about meeting their adviser, registering for classes and attending the Student Involvement Fair. “That’s where they get to talk with people from campus organizations and learn about everything they can get involved in here at UNI that wasn’t available to them in high school,” said Duster. 

“Home by the Dome” is another favorite event, said Duster. The new freshmen who will be living in the residence halls gather at the UNI-Dome to meet other students who will be living in their hall or on the same floor. Duster and her fellow staff members take students from the Dome to their new digs so they can get a feel for where they’ll be living, eating and studying. “Knowing even one person that you’ll be living with makes a huge difference,” said Duster.

UNI offers 10 new-freshmen orientation sessions each summer, with separate tracks for students and parents. While students meet with their adviser one-on-one, have their student ID photo taken and learn about academic expectations, parents learn about UNI career resources, student safety and responsibility, and the transition they’ll go through when sending a son or daughter off to college. Throughout the day students and parents touch base during meals, recreation time in the Wellness Recreation Center and at the Student Services Fair. 

“At UNI, the faculty and staff know these are your sons and daughters, and we want to do right by them,” Woods told the parents.

Calming words like these helped reassure the parents. In turn, Duster does her part to reassure the students.

“I was nervous when I came to orientation as a new freshman, so when I can connect with at least one student and ease her worries, that’s the best part for me.”