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WMU rolls out new-student orientation program

May 11, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will brief faculty, staff and administrators on this summer's new-student orientation program during a kick-off event for the campus community at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, in the Bernhard Center's West Ballroom.

All those whose schedules allow are asked to attend the 30- to 45-minute presentation, which will provide information about 2006's program of 12 two-day orientation sessions to be held between Monday, June 5, and Thursday, June 29.

More than 2,200 admitted students are currently registered to attend one of those sessions, but more than 3,000 may sign up before the May 31 registration deadline. In addition, hundreds of parents will be taking part in various orientation activities.

"In the past, some members of the University community have commented that they didn't really know about orientation and weren't sure how to answer some of the questions people ask about it," says Salatha Willis, orientation coordinator. "We're having a campus kickoff because we want everyone to know what's going on and how they can be welcoming and helpful to our prospective students and their parents."

This year, orientation is being offered through the First-year Experience program.

FYE was introduced in 2005 to make the transition to college easier for incoming students and help them have a successful first year. It is one of the many ways the University is working to ensure students start out right and stay in school until they graduate.

John Beacon, vice provost for enrollment management, was hired last February to oversee FYE, as well as such areas as admissions, financial aid and scholarships, and the registrar's office. According to Beacon, initiatives to increase WMU's enrollment hinge on the campus community being a part of recruitment and retention activities.

In keeping with that philosophy, Willis says he hopes the May 17 kickoff will foster enthusiasm for creating a more collaborative atmosphere that encourages students to enroll at WMU and persist in their studies here.

The 2006 new-student orientation sessions will have the same content as last year. But instead of activities being packed into one day, the sessions will start at noon the first day and end at noon the following day.

Willis says the only other significant change this time around is a pragmatic one that recognizes today's students often go to orientation sessions at several schools before deciding where they will actually enroll come fall.

"This isn't just a time for us to give students a tour of campus, tell them what they need to know and register them for classes," he says. "It's also a time to give students a sense that we're regular folk who are here to support them and help them succeed. First impressions can be lasting impressions."

To make that first impression a good one, this year's orientation sessions will include new pride-building activities so students feel more connected to the University.

Also, an informal "mixer" has been added for parents that will allow them to interact with all levels of WMU faculty and staff. Willis encourages all faculty and staff to sign up to attend one of these mixers so parents can get better acquainted with those who work at the University.

"It's important to do everything we can to recruit and retain students and to take every opportunity to engage parents, prospective students and current students in a positive way," Willis says. "We need to be as responsive, open and understanding as possible--during orientation and throughout the year. We all play a central role in making WMU a student-centered, student-friendly university."

For more information about orientation or to sign up to attend one of the mixers, call (269) 387-2301. Additional information about FYE is available online at www.wmich.edu/fye.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
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