New student orientation tentative plans for summer 2020

Abigail Duchow, Senior Reporter

Orientation is one of many campus activities impacted by COVID-19. To follow the Stay Safe, Stay Healthy guidelines set by Gov. Jay Inslee, CWU has had to create new plans for orientation. These new plans will impact incoming students, including freshmen and transfer students.

New students coming to CWU in fall 2020 will be experiencing a different orientation structure than in the past, Orientation Director John Mounsey shared. Orientation will be making a shift to virtual events and interaction, with the possibility of eventual in-person activities near the end of summer in accordance with changes to the stay-at-home guidelines. All plans are subject to change based on COVID-19 restrictions.

“Everything from here on is still in development and may change as final decisions are being made,” Mounsey said.

Mounsey said orientation has had to change from the previous in-person sessions, while keeping in mind how to preserve the core values of the program. These values include access, inclusivity, student success, engagement and safety. 

According to Mounsey, another thing orientation staff  aims to acknowledge when creating new plans is how to make the orientation program work while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Part of creating new plans also includes acknowledging residual fear and anxiety students, parents and staff may have as COVID-19 restrictions eventually lift.

Mounsey said orientation staff is working on putting students into Microsoft Teams groups. The groups would be led by CWU ambassadors that would include returning students, academic advisors, student success staff and any other appropriate faculty. The purpose of these groups would be to allow students to connect with their orientation leader, student services and other students.

According to Mounsey, the groups of students are planned to be made based on factors such as their major, residence hall, athletics participation and specialty programs. 

“Our hope is to hold weekly meetings for each group so that students can begin forming personal relationships that will help [CWU] feel a little more like home once they move to Ellensburg,” Mounsey said.

Mounsey said orientation staff is also hoping to host something on campus during the month of August in small groups if restrictions allow it. He said this program will help students connect with their orientation leader, student services and other students.

There are several other tentative plans for orientation subject to change as COVID-19 restrictions change. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays in August the orientation staff might host optional in-person orientation sessions with a 100 student capacity. As of now, Sept. 18 will be first-year residence hall move-in day and the start of Wildcat Welcome Week.

Orientation Coordinator T’Erra Felder said she feels optimistic about the plans for switching to a safe environment for students and faculty.

“I hope we can still provide an environment via Microsoft Teams for incoming students to connect with folks and receive the information they need to prepare them for their first quarter,” Felder said.

Felder said the orientation team is already receiving positive feedback from incoming students and support networks about their Wildcat Wednesday livestreams, which cover topics like financial aid, housing and student success.

“I believe we will continue to receive feedback from students and their support networks on how to best support them during COVID-19 and their transition to [CWU],” Felder said.