Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

Incoming Students Go Through Orientation Online

Published Date: Jul 14, 2020 10:00:00 AM

New students enrolling in the Huntley College of Agriculture this fall are getting an unprecedented initiation experience: online orientation.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced faculty and staff to not only switch to virtual instruction, but also to virtual means of introducing new students to the college and Cal Poly Pomona.

“Orientation is virtual in every aspect that you can think of,” said Rosa Lamas-Serratos, the college’s student success services and recruitment coordinator.

In previous years, new students – incoming freshmen and community college transfers – would come to campus for a two-day orientation. They would spend the first day and a half with Orientation Services, learning about the university.

They would come to the college on the second half of the second day where they would meet in person with faculty and staff, learn important major and department information, and lastly register for classes.

But social distancing requirements in the coronavirus pandemic made in-person orientation impossible.

“This year, Orientation Services created an online virtual program that took the place of the day-and-a-half in-person session we traditionally have, and the college is doing the advising/registration portion virtually via Zoom,” Lamas-Serratos said.

Overall, the college offered 15 sessions for incoming freshmen between June 22 and July 15 and 16 for transfer students between July 20 and Aug. 7 based on their major. New students must participate in one of these sessions before they can sign up for any classes.

The orientation sessions are held by major on the Zoom videoconference platform and are three hours in length. Each department chair and administrative coordinator, the college advising staff, and student registration assistants also participate to help students register for classes.

“The first 30 to 45 minutes is set aside to provide students with general advising information, curriculum, road maps, number of units to register for, and explaining who their advisors will be for the year,” Lamas-Serratos said. “The chair also has the opportunity to share important department information.”

The remaining time is dedicated to the students and assisting them with registering for classes. The college hired 25 student registration assistants to work the sessions. Each student registration assistant takes new students into virtual “breakout rooms” to assist them in registering for classes.

The department chair moves from room to room to assist and answer specific questions, while the staff advisor remains in the “main room” to answer advising and registration questions. By the end of the session, students leave with 12 to 15 units for the fall semester.

In addition, the college created an orientation page on Blackboard, a virtual learning platform many universities use, that included how-to guides, curriculum sheets, road maps, welcome videos from the dean and associate dean, a tip video from the college peer advisors, and general information from the department chairs.

More than 500 new students are slated to participate by the end of summer orientation advising sessions, Lamas-Serratos said.