Along with a new-look campus, a new-look orientation week is in store for the Class of 2019.
Due to the closure of the Duke Chapel, new student convocation and the talk given by the orientation week closing speaker will occur in different venues this year—Cameron Indoor Stadium and Page Auditorium, respectively—and several modifications have been made to the week’s schedule. Among the most notable additions are sessions on exploring academic pursuits, building an inclusive campus climate and preventing gender violence, Jordan Hale, director and assistant dean for new student programs, explained in an email.
New students will have more time to chat with their first-year advisory counselors and resident assistants, a change that will hopefully make orientation less overwhelming, said senior Leah Mackay, FAC Board co-chair. FAC chats on values and getting involved on campus will accompany past years’ discussions on campus resources and the summer reading book. This year’s orientation will also include three more RA floor meetings.
Mackay said the focus will be on helping students get to know campus rather than presenting lists of academic requirements.
In addition to making orientation less chaotic, The Office of New Student Programs was also tasked with selecting a new closing speaker. Author and poet Maya Angelou spoke to incoming freshmen from 1989 until 2013 before she passed away in May 2014—one of Angelou’s students will address the Class of 2019.
Melissa Harris-Perry, who received her Ph.D. in political science from Duke in 1999, will speak in Page Auditorium Saturday night, continuing the partnership between the Office of New Student Programs and co-sponsor Delta Gamma Sorority, Inc., which also co-sponsored Angelou’s talks. Harris-Perry hosts a weekly television show on MSNBC and is a presidential endowed professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, where she took classes with Angelou as an undergraduate.
“She’s a great speaker, and she’s going to be able to engage the crowd,” said senior Sherry Zhang, FAC Board co-chair. “The fact that she is a student of Maya Angelou, it’s like a cycle, it’s like the beginning of a new tradition.”
Another special guest for this year’s orientation week will be Alison Bechdel, author of the summer reading book “Fun Home.” Bechdel will join the freshmen at the Durham Performing Arts Center Thursday evening for the usual session featuring John Brown, associate professor of the practice of music, and his Big Band, a guest appearance that has not occurred in the past.
Development of the new sessions on academic pursuits, diversity and gender violence prevention began in January after a campus committee—the Deep Dive committee—reviewed previous orientation week experiences, Hale wrote. During the sessions on academic pursuits, students will be allowed to register for various trips that provide a more in-depth look at some of the University’s academic facilities. Included are trips to laboratories such as the Triangle Universities Nuclear Lab and Canine Cognition Center, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Nasher Museum of Art and others.
Another change for the upcoming orientation week that is generating discussion among students is the hip-hop concert in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens Wednesday evening. Sponsored by Duke Performances and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the concert will feature in-state artists Phonte, Rapsody and 9th Wonder. Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American Studies, will host the event, which is limited to first-year students.
In addition to Mackay and Zhang, some members of the FAC Board will be at the concert to help run the show, but any other non-first-year students wanting to attend would have to sneak in, which Zhang said would be a good problem to deal with as an indication of the event’s popularity.
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In preparing for the several new events and venues incorporated in this year’s orientation week, Hale noted that the administration has worked diligently to overcome the numerous challenges posed by on-campus construction and is expecting the same quality of programming.
“We have worked all summer to account for these adjustments and ensure parents, students and all other guests get where they need to be during orientation week,” Hale wrote. “It does not mean we are not asking everyone to be patient, but it does mean we have thought about this thoroughly.”