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Pieces of Eight


New Student Orientation Adopts ‘Flashy’ Update

By Christine Neff

Orientation materials at East Carolina University are getting a little flashier – and a lot lighter – this summer, as new students forgo the traditional paper handouts for a computer flash drive linked to university information.

Instead of carting around a bag of brochures, flyers, handouts, pamphlets, booklets and other items during their orientation stay, new students will be fitted with a 2G flash drive, specially loaded with ECU materials.

Karen Smith, associate director of the First Year Center at ECU, said the switch to flash drives came about for several reasons: to save paper, to keep academic departments from spending money on printed items, and to please incoming students who are accustomed to the technology.

“The cool thing about the flash drive is that it will be linked to web sites. As the web site changes, the information available on the flash drive will change,” Smith said. “In that way, hopefully, this is something the students can hold on to and use for their full four years here.”

The flash drives will have a key chain on one end to promote portability, and extra storage space so students can save documents and class projects to the hard drive. ECU will purchase 5,000 flash drives from an outside vendor (bids were still out as of April 15), and funds will come from Orientation and Student Affairs to cover the expense, Smith said.

The University Media Center worked with Smith to develop the computer materials. “We put together a design that is very ECU-like,” Smith said. When students plug the flash drive into a computer, they can log on to an interactive, Pirate-themed treasure map, highlighting various schools, colleges, offices and campus resources.

Students can access links to Web sites, PDFs and other online resources, including orientation presentations and the now only-online university course catalogs. More information will be made available to students via the flash drive than has been physically distributed in the past, Smith said.

This summer’s orientation will not be completely paperless, however. Students will still receive a couple of paper handouts, and parent materials will continue to be printed.

“This year is a transition year,” Smith said. “We’ll see how it works, and we’ll be asking parents at orientation how they would have liked to have received information, either on a flash drive or in handouts. In the future, we might make it an option for parents to get a flash drive.”

Students will provide feedback for the pilot program, and, in the fall, the First Year Center plans to follow-up to see if and how students are continuing to use their orientation flash drives.

Smith said members of the 2009 Orientation Coordinating Committee are excited by the initiative and hopeful for good results. “It’s a pilot project, so we know there will be some things to work out, but we think we’re putting together a nice product,” she said.

New student orientation begins June 15 and continues through July 21 with eight sessions for new first-year students, two sessions for transfer students and two summer school sessions. For more information, contact Karen Smith at 328-4173,

This page originally appeared in the May 1, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at