July 4, 2020

UMW Goes Online for New Student Orientation

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

When Shannon Hardy misplaced her bookbag at her UMW orientation, it felt like a disaster. But the help and reassurance she got from her orientation leaders reinforced that she made the right college choice.

“That’s just how Mary Wash is,” said Hardy, a rising junior. “Everyone here wants you to succeed and gives you the tools to make that happen. I want every new student to feel the sense of belonging that I’ve felt since that day.”

Hardy’s among the 30 student orientation leaders who will shepherd hundreds of new Eagles through the University of Mary Washington’s 2020 orientation. Unlike her own orientation, though, she is connecting with incoming students via a computer screen.

Freshman orientation, pandemic style. Like other universities, UMW has had to shift from its traditional model of having new students experience life on campus to exploring their new home via Zoom. Today marks the first of nine one-day virtual sessions geared toward freshmen, while transfers had their pick of three events that began earlier this summer.

But that’s only the beginning – a series of online engagements with UMW faculty, staff and current students will guide incoming students throughout the summer and prepare them to step onto campus in the fall. Read more.

Britni Greenleaf: Virtual Orientation

Britni Greenleaf knows what it’s like to be the new kid on campus. She didn’t know a single soul at the University of Mary Washington when she was hired two summers ago.

Coordinator of New Student Programs Britni Greenleaf.

Coordinator of New Student Programs Britni Greenleaf.

That made her a perfect fit for her job as coordinator of New Student Programs. In that role, she welcomes Eagles to the UMW community, planning First-Year Seminar Peer Mentoring, NEST early arrival, and freshman and transfer student Orientation programs, like the one for first-years that started today.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered campus this spring, Greenleaf and her team were still tasked with planning the events, which for many, commemorate their first concentrated interaction with UMW classmates. But it all had to be done virtually.

“A large-scale program like this usually takes a year to prepare. We had to do it in two months,” said Greenleaf, who earned a master’s degree in counseling and college student personnel from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Hailing the preparations as a “team effort,” Greenleaf praised her UMW colleagues and student leaders who have worked tirelessly to make online Orientation happen.

Held over Zoom, the one-day online experience gives new students the chance to connect with peers, learn how to use Canvas and UMW email, and ask questions about their schedules and potential majors. They’ll meet President Troy Paino, become acquainted with the University’s value system, ASPIRE, and watch “UMW Live,” featuring prerecorded skits – written by and for students – about campus life and resources.

And hopefully, Greenleaf said, even online, participants will begin to feel like Mary Washington is home. Mindful that these freshmen missed out on traditional high school experiences like prom and graduation, she and her staff have added “touchpoints” to allow for student engagement all summer.

“They haven’t had some of their ‘lasts’ in closing one chapter and opening another but are still excited to become a part of our community,” Greenleaf said. “The best thing we can do is connect with them virtually until we can show them the spirit of UMW in person in August.”

 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching students come to UMW, get involved, take on leadership roles and eventually graduate.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Transitioning to the job as a young professional and making programs work with limited resources.

Q: What do you miss most about the UMW campus?
A: Waving to people on Campus Walk while golf carting with Associate Dean Melissa Jones. Random conversations with my students. Hanging out with Mr. Russell, a custodian in the UC and one of my favorite people on campus. Visiting my friends in Campus Rec and Student Activities and Engagement. Seeing students benching on Ball Circle.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?
A: I recently became a registered yoga instructor through the Yoga Foundation of Fredericksburg. I also love to read, journal, run and spend time outdoors.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a first-generation college student from a working class family in rural Pennsylvania. I used to spend my summers driving a dump truck at a paper mill to pay for college.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “You don’t always have to know what to say or what to do, but continue to show up. #blacklivesmatter

UMW Goes Online for New Student Orientation

When Shannon Hardy misplaced her bookbag at her UMW orientation, it felt like a disaster. But the help and reassurance she got from her orientation leaders reinforced that she made the right college choice. “That’s just how Mary Wash is,” said Hardy, a rising junior. “Everyone here wants you to succeed and gives you the […]