All summer new-student orientation sessions change to online format

The summer 2019 Baylor Orientation and Line Camp Staff. All 2020 in-person orientation sessions have officially been cancelled for the months of June and July, but plan to continue online. Photo Courtesy of New Student Programs.

By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

As local governments, states and the federal government continue with shelter-in-place orders and restrictions in daily life, the university has decided to move all in-person new-student orientation sessions for June and July to an online format.

This new orientation experience will be called “Foundations” and is expected to launch on June 1.

The New Student Programs office, along with the Admissions office, academic advisors, Student Life office, the President’s Council and others, made this decision in April, prior to the opening of the online reservation form for Orientation and Baylor Line Camp.

Academic advising appointments will also take place virtually and are set to begin June 8, the original start date of the first orientation session.

The university said there will hopefully be additional information available to students in mid-April.

Nathan Shelburne, director of New Student Programs at Baylor, said that they felt the best thing to do was to make this decision to move online as early as they felt they could.

Shelburne said that as different states and counties have extended their shelter-in-place orders, there was growing uncertainty about being able to host orientation on campus.

“We felt like it would be really difficult for families and students to make travel plans and all those things that are related to orientation if we were to hold out on the possibility of having in-person sessions,” Shelburne said.

The seven combination sessions, that included orientation and Baylor Line Camp in one visit that were planned for the summer will also not happen as scheduled. However, the New Student Programs office is still working out other options to continue with Baylor Line Camp.

“If we are able to offer some [Line Camp] sessions into the month of July, we would love to be able to do that and we’re just monitoring closely and working in close connection with others on campus to make those decisions on whether we will be able to offer it in-person,” Shelburne said.

Shelburne said that if in-person Line Camp does not work out, they hope to create an alternative. He stated that the opportunities to meet other students and connect with leaders are very important.

“We’ve got a phenomenal team of more than 50 student leaders who will still serve with us hopefully in some capacity this summer,” Shelburne said. “So we’re just still working out what exactly that will look like.”

There is not currently any need to reimburse students for travel plans.

There shouldn’t be anyone who has made travel plans because they wouldn’t have yet been able to sign up for a specific session,” Shelburne said. “So all of our communication has said, ‘Please don’t make any travel plans until you’ve officially signed up and confirmed a particular spot in a session.’”

Incoming freshman from Bentonville, Ark., Olivia Marquardt said she was initially disappointed by the switch.

“There is always an added benefit to having an in-person meeting,” Marquardt said. “But through video meetings, we should still be able to get the information we need.”

The New Student Programs office released a statement on their website on Friday and said they are looking to create a robust online orientation experience in which students can engage themselves from anywhere.

“While it may seem early to be adjusting to a virtual format for Orientation, making this decision now will allow us the most time and ability to prepare for the best start to your Baylor journey, and it will hopefully minimize the need for you to make travel plans during this uncertain time,” the statement said.