Project Overhaul: Duke discussing major changes to pre-orientation programs

<p>Events in this year’s Orientation Week included small-group discussions with FACs, a new session called “Duke it Out: Intersectionality in Action” and a dinner in West Union.</p>

Events in this year’s Orientation Week included small-group discussions with FACs, a new session called “Duke it Out: Intersectionality in Action” and a dinner in West Union.

Duke is in the process of reimagining pre-orientation programs for first-years.

Instead of serving as optional enrichment before the start of orientation week, pre-orientation programs will potentially be a mandatory event in the middle of O-week for all first-year students. The new format will be called “Orientation Experiences” or “Immersive Experiences.”

“Fundamentally, it is literally no longer pre-orientation,” said junior Finn Brauer, director of this fall's Project BUILD program.

Pre-orientation leaders learned of the proposed changes through recent meetings with New Student Programs. 

A meeting between BUILD leadership and NSP was scheduled to last one hour but ended up going on for nearly three because “people were really rattled,” Brauer said, with students questioning why they weren’t involved in the process sooner.

Jordan Hale, associate dean of students and director of New Student Programs, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that the office is still working with student leaders to iron out the details of the changes.

“As we do, we will be sure to be in touch,” Hale wrote.

Under the new setup, the first few days of O-week will feature the normal activities hosted by first-year advisory counselors. O-week then will transition into the mandatory Immersive Experiences programming.

Immersive Experiences will be paired with on-campus organizations and offices, as well as New Student Programs. This represents a change in how the programs are usually run, Brauer said.

“That’ll have an influence on how they’re run and represent to some extent a bit of a shift, because previously, they were basically student-run,” he said.

Pre-orientation programs are normally about seven to eight days long, with some exceptions; now, students to whom The Chronicle spoke said programs would be shorter.

Administrators have not yet decided how many days the pre-orientation activities will last but currently estimate between four and six. 

There may also be new pre-orientation programs added to the mix. According to a student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, Duke is in talks with Polis: Center for Politics about creating a leadership-oriented program, and an environmental program is also on the table. Brauer said that there may be ten pre-orientation programs altogether.

According to Brauer, with ten programs and approximately 1,800 incoming first-years, each program could end up with around 180 students, which would increase staffing demands. 

However, the anonymous student said that the current plan is to make all the programs different sizes. Projects Wild, Waves and BUILD–the “major three” projects, per the student—could end up with more students. 

Duke is also potentially working on amending the application process to pre-orientation programs, according to junior Will Hayes and the anonymous student. Hayes was a co-director of Project Waves. Both students obtained the information from meetings with NSFP.

Brauer and Hayes noted that Duke is uncertain as to how they would handle certain situations that could arise without applications, such as students who are placed into Project Waves or Project Wild but do not like the outdoors.

Nadia Bey profile
Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey, Trinity '23, was managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume and digital strategy director for Volume 118.

Leah Boyd profile
Leah Boyd

Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.


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