By: Lorelei Kenny
Trial runs can be disastrous, but in the case of NSO 2016, (or “The New New Student Orientation” as I like to call it) it’s first run around block went smoothly. When changing an event that has been relatively the same for a large number of years, there are bound to be some mishaps, but when all’s said and done, it is evident that NSO 2016 had many more triumphs than failures.
A great deal of things changed this year, and most, if not all of those changes were for the better. First off, rather than three crazy long 15 hour days, it was four shorter 10 hour days. Instead of random pre-assigned teams, first years were sorted on site into squads with students of the same faculty. Also, rather than releasing the entire NSO schedule, it was communicated by word of mouth and periodically on the NSO 2016 Facebook group using both videos and text post (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsh55WfdYKg) , and instead of Shinerama, it was Panthers for Change. The biggest change, however, was in its overarching focus.
Earlier this week I met up with Tayte Willows the 2016 NSO coordinator for a quick chat.
Lorelei: As the 2016 NSO coordinator, how did you approach NSO differently than coordinators of previous years?
Tayte: “ I, along with the rest of my team spend a significant amount of time figuring out what NSO is for, what is it’s purpose. In the past, NSO was more information driven, presentations from the sports centre, students affairs, student union, campus security etc. The goal was essential to give students all the information they would need to be prepared for UPEI. But really, there is nothing I can teach them in four days that they are going to retain, because the nerves of starting university are too overwhelming. That is why this year, NSO’s focus shifted from throwing huge amounts of information at first years to helping them build a community with healthy connections both on and off campus. Having healthy connections with Student Affairs, UPEISU, leaders and peers in place, so that when students do need information or help they will feel comfortable reaching out to whomever.”
Lorelei: What did you want first years to take away from NSO?
Tayte: “I wanted first years to walk away from NSO knowing that they belong here, that UPEI is THEIR campus, it’s THEIR space. That yes, they really can bring their problems to UPEISU, yes, they really can use the computers in the library, yes, they really can lay on the couches in the sun room etc. And not just on campus but in Charlottetown as well, that Charlottetown is THEIR city. That is why we made the decision to move away from the 39 year old tradition of fundraising for Shinemara, and started to donate to local charities (PEI Humane Society, PEI Family Violence Prevention Services, the Alzheimer’s Society of PEI and Canadian Mental Health Society Association). In return, these four charitable groups have agreed to give UPEI students the opportunity to volunteer with them. Again, this change was made with the hopes of establishing healthy local connections.”
Lorelei: Lastly, What is your vision for NSO in years to come?
Tayte: “My vision for NSO is that it will continue to be used to build the type of campus that we want to have, and that it will be used to show students that through participating and getting engaged on and off campus, their time at UPEI will be some of the best years of their lives.”
However, the million dollar question is not what Tayte and her team hoped to accomplish but what did the first years really take away from NSO?
I had the chance to ask a few of them and here is what they had to say:
“I was really impressed with the effort that the leaders put into NSO! Especially since they are not paid, but even if they were it’s really awesome to see people just being nice to other people. The best example is the fundraising day, when we danced the whole day in the sun to help other people have better lives. NSO has encourages me as a first year and will inspire me for the next years I will spend at UPEI, and the rest of my life.” -Danika
“NSO was definitely a good way to get started at UPEI. I was worried I’d be thrust into the UPEI community and forced to figure things out on my own, but the NSO leaders I met helped me to come out of my shell. Overall, I feel more enthusiastic and optimistic about university than I did before.” -Jeff
“It was a good way to meet people that you would potentially be having classes with, and just helps you to get comfortable with the idea of putting yourself out there, and at the same time, help you to create new memories.” -Laurel
“NSO allowed me to connect with people in my faculty, and those connections made integrating into university so much easier.” -Noah
It’s safe to say NSO 2016 was successful in helping first years begin building a healthy strong community, and without a doubt the future of “New New Student Orientation” is looking brighter than ever!