In helping new students navigate Cal State Fullerton, junior Tavia Bentley gets asked a lot of questions — from how to sign up for classes to how virtual instruction will work this fall semester.
Bentley, a student coordinator with the Titan Orientation Programs, finds the answers.
“Our orientation team makes sure incoming students get the information and help they need,” said Bentley, a criminal justice major. “We’re dedicated to opening opportunities to our new students and answering any questions they have about the upcoming school year.”
With more than 12,000 incoming freshmen and community college transfer students — about 6,250 freshmen and 5,750 transfers — starting this fall in a remote environment, Titan Orientation Programs created virtual outreach programs and activities to welcome new students to the university and help them with the transition to college.
Orientation is a traditional part of preparing for back-to-school as students get ready to start classes online on Aug. 22. The majority of fall 2020 courses will be conducted virtually, consistent with the CSU system’s directive.
“Talking With Titans” podcasts focusing on campus resources, “Tuffy’s TOPs Tips” webinar series on topics such as “Finding Your Way at CSUF,” a social media campaign and college orientations — all are geared to make incoming students feel supported and personally connected to the university, said Colleen McDonough, director of Titan Orientation Programs.
In partnership with numerous campus colleagues, the program moved from the traditional in-person orientation during the summer months to a virtual format due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonough noted.
First-time freshmen orientation began Aug. 1, with all of the virtual programs available through the fall semester. Transfer students began attending virtual sessions in mid-June.
“I’m proud of my team for pivoting so quickly and adapting so well to online engagement. It’s been a rapid process and a steep learning curve,” McDonough said.
Titans Lead the Way
Assisting with the virtual orientation are 64 current CSUF students, including Bentley, who are serving as orientation leaders and coordinators. These student leaders answer questions, connect incoming students to campus resources, promote Titan spirit and share what it’s like to be a college student.
“There is no better CSUF expert than a current student, so our objective was to set up environments for this knowledge to be shared,” McDonough said. “Our orientation leaders also get the opportunity to develop professionally and personally.”
Bentley is part of the “Talking with Titans” podcasts, where she and a team of orientation leaders present conversations on a range of topics, designed to address any thoughts and questions from new students.
“Co-hosting a podcast for my university is an opportunity I would not have even thought to be possible,” Bentley added. “I am incredibly fortunate to work with amazing professional staff and peers who have shown me what good leadership and teamwork should be like in the workplace.”
The Titan Orientation Programs, which last fall became its own department within the Division of Student Affairs, is partnering with such campus divisions and departments as academic support services, the eight colleges, and recruitment and outreach for virtual campus tours and webinars for transfer students.
“We wanted to make it a seamless process for the university’s new students,” said Isaac Cervantes, Titan Orientation Programs assistant director. “Our goal is to kickstart friendships and build community. We also wanted to show students how to self-advocate to not only find the answers to their questions, but find more.”