Summer Orientation 2013

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Orientation schedule

Eight first year orientation sessions are set for summer 2013, with one session completed June 12-13. Dates for remaining sessions are June 17-18, June 24-25, June 26-27, July 1-2, July 8-9, July 10-11 and July 15-16.

Incoming transfer student orientations were held May 20-21 and June 10-11.

Pictured above, Linda Mellish, associate director of Research and Assessment in the Office of Student Transitions, points the way for parents during summer orientation at East Carolina University.  (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Crash course helps incoming students prepare for life at ECU

June 17, 2013

By Jamitress Bowden
ECU News Services

East Carolina University’s incoming class of 2017 should bring enthusiasm – and perhaps a strong preference for purple and gold – when they arrive on campus in June or July for a two-day immersion in Pirate culture.

Each summer, the university welcomes close to 5,000 new freshmen and approximately 500 transfer students with a crash course on all things ECU – which helps students move from anxiety to excitement about their first year on campus.

Karen Smith, associate director of ECU’s Office of Student Transitions, has managed orientation at ECU for 10 years. She said that tweaking the program annually has improved the overall experience. One major change involved an invitation for parents to stay in residence halls during orientation. Another was posting digital copies of orientation reading materials on a USB flash drive distributed to all participants. Separate instructional sessions for families and students were implemented, so that learning and discussion could be tailored specifically to the needs of each audience.

Families of incoming freshmen are invited to join in orientation, an experience that younger siblings often enjoy.
Smith said she gets feedback from the participants of each orientation session. At the end of the summer, she looks to see what needs to improve or change so that orientation will continue to be a great experience.

However, some elements of orientation have remained the same. Orientation committee member Steven Asby said one of his favorite elements was the collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

“The two sides of the university get together and really try to welcome Pirates,” said Asby, who is associate director of the academic advising and support center.

That collaboration is evident in instructional sessions such as Explore a Major, College Meeting and Making the Most of College. These programs give students and their parents a chance to meet with representatives of academic majors offered at ECU. They can learn about the required course work and get early exposure to expectations of the department, whether the student has decided on a major or not, explained Smith.

“Over the years we’ve stayed true to the purpose of orientation – introducing parents and students to the academic and non-academic,” said Dr. Mary Beth Corbin, executive director of Student Transitions.

Another element of the annual crash course that remains unchanged is the interaction that incoming freshmen enjoy with each other, and with upperclassmen who assist in the orientation programs. The upperclassmen serve as orientation assistants, who dedicate their efforts to ensure the incoming class of Pirates is well prepared to begin their first semester. Twenty-five OAs are hired every summer following a multi-level interview process.

“Welcoming new Pirates to campus is an amazing experience,” said Jorge Almonte, an ECU junior and first time OA. “I’m looking forward to meeting the new freshmen and reflecting on my time here.”

“It’s built me up as a leader. It’s taught me to branch out, be open, be very friendly, how to delegate tasks, how to organize and team work,” said Jocelyn Barton, second-year OA and ECU health services management major.

Orientation assistant Christopher Battle from Fayetteville greets people outside West End Dining Hall.
Elementary education major Audrey Estep, a first-year OA and ECU senior, said she did not know how demanding the job would be in the beginning.

“Now that I know, I am looking forward to working with the staff because we work so well together already,” Estep said. “I am also excited to see all of the new faces on campus because we have so many freshmen coming in.”

The OA job is competitive, with approximately 75 to 85 applicants each year. Smith explained that even those students who have previously served as an OA must interview. This year, 11 returning students were hired.

Smith said that in her 10 years of working with orientation, the quality of students selected for OA positions has improved every year. “It’s fun to watch their leadership skills grow,” she said.

ECU senior nutrition science major Shelby Cook is beginning her third year as an OA. She said her favorite part is getting to know the new students. “When we see them in the fall and they walk up to me and talk about how I showed them something,” she said, “I realize the impact that we have and we’re really their first connection to ECU.”

Those initial connections and first new friends can make a difference to a student who is anxious about leaving home to experience the major milestone of that first year of college.

“I love orientation and watching the new students who are unsure, and then they make friends and get excited about coming to college,” Smith said.

For additional information about orientation, visit or e-mail

Orientation assistant Audrey Estep from Brevard speaks with incoming freshmen and their families members before a walking tour of campus.