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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Activities & Organizations

Team leaders prepare for virtual student orientations


At the virtual orientation, students will meet with an academic advisor, get an introduction to UH traditions and campus resources, learn about success strategies and ways to pay for college and get connected with other freshmen. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

At the virtual orientation, students will meet with an academic adviser, get an introduction to UH traditions and campus resources, learn about success strategies and ways to pay for college and get connected with other freshmen. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

In light of the new coronavirus pandemic, orientation team leaders are preparing to virtually welcome the class of 2024 to the University.

UH will host virtual new student orientations this summer, and orientation team leaders are working to still give the incoming students the same welcoming start to the University they’ve done in years past.

“My role as an orientation team leader remains the same, even virtually,” said orientation team leader Dana Fattouh.

At the virtual orientation, students will meet with an academic adviser, get an introduction to UH traditions and campus resources, learn about success strategies and ways to pay for college and get connected with other freshmen. The sessions will be self-paced and can take anywhere from one day to up to two weeks, depending on the time availability of the student.   

There are eight virtual orientation sessions from May 1 to July 13. Students who were already registered for in-person orientations have been reassigned virtual orientation dates based on the date they previously signed up for.

The freshman summer 2020 orientation fee would normally be $150, but the virtual orientation has lowered the fee to $60.

The fee includes access to the online orientation modules, academic advising and course registration assistance, subscription to the New Coog Transition Series and more.

Students who have already paid more than $60 will receive a credit for the excess money that will be used to pay part of their Fall 2020 tuition bills.

Just as students had the option to bring parents and other guests with them to orientations in the past, there will be a family and guest virtual orientation to provide guidance on how they can support their new college students.

Teaching and learning freshman Jocelyn Saldana has been busy with weekly online training for her role as an orientation team leader for the new virtual sessions. Despite her eagerness to gain experience while adjusting to these unexpected changes, she’s disappointed that she won’t be able to have more time to get to know the new students.

“Small groups are the time when we do icebreakers and talk about our story as to why we chose UH,” Saldana said. “With online orientation, sessions will only be about an hour, so we won’t have much time to connect and get to know each other.”

Fattouh was looking forward to connecting with the new students, but also with her fellow orientation team members. She has been working with them to come up with new strategies for connecting with incoming freshmen over video calls.

“I was really excited to be able to spend the summer on campus and grow with my fellow OTLs,” Fattouh said. “We would talk about how ecstatic we were to welcome incoming freshmen at 7 a.m. each morning — only for it to end up being virtual.”

In-person orientation sessions in previous years involved choreographed dances and videos. Similar plans were well on their way this way before the pandemic struck.

Fattouh and Saldana said these special events are currently being sorted out, and staff have been brainstorming how to share them virtually.

Despite the change in plans, Fattouh and Saldana remain optimistic and excited to be part of the first group to conduct virtual orientations.

“I aim to provide students with knowledge, advice and leadership,” Fattouh said about her role as an orientation team leader. “I want incoming students to feel comfortable and confident in attending the University of Houston.”

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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