The Catholic University of America

Oct. 27 2009

Enhanced Orientation Extended Program Increases Attendance at Events

  Students at Freshman Service Day

For Catholic University first year students and transfers, a map of the Washington D.C., Metrorail system opened doors to new friends, experiences and resources.

For six weeks, CUA's newest students hopped on an imaginary subway system to attend Orientation Extended events that would help them transition and acclimate to the university. Now in its fifth year, the program began on the first day of classes on Aug. 31, after the conclusion of the traditional four-day new student orientation.

Students were given an online Metro "farecard" to keep track of the events they participated in. Events were grouped into five categories: faith and service, academic and cultural, personal development and community building, social, and health and safety. Each event category was designated the same color of one of the city's Metro lines. Every student was expected to attend at least two events on each of the colored lines to fulfill their farecard. Activities ranged from taking a professor to lunch, to doing community service to taking group trips to attractions in the city.

Although past years have featured similar events and lectures, this was the first year that students were offered prizes. The 104 events attracted more than 5,000 attendees.

"First-year students have the opportunity to successfully jumpstart their collegiate experience by participating in our comprehensive Orientation Extended program," says Susan Pervi, vice president for student life. "We are delighted with the student response and look to sustain the level of involvement and engagement of our dynamic Class of 2013."

The first six weeks a new student spends on a college campus can make or break their decision to stay there, according to Kathryn Jennings, associate dean of students. During those six weeks, students need to learn how to deal with homesickness, new responsibilities and how to adapt their study habits to the college level. Many of Orientation Extended's events were geared toward these issues.

Brendan Duffy attended more events than any other student.

Jennings, who came up with the original idea for the new format and is in charge of the program, says that most other universities focus only on the first week after traditional orientation.

"I think this year we got it right," says Jennings, attributing the success to better marketing, the cooperation of faculty and staff as well as the allure of winning a prize package.

Although 60 students completed the farecard, many more attended more than 10 events but did not attend two events in each category.

The program concluded with a barbecue on Oct. 18 when students who had completed the requirements were entered in a drawing for prize packages. Brendan Duffy, an economics major from Rapid City, S.D., who attended 31 events - more than any other student - received a special prize package that includes $500 toward second semester books.

For more information about Orientation Extended, visit