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New SUNY students learn their way around

Incoming students and their mothers walk the SUNY Cortland campus Thursday during orientation activities. The students are, left to right, Kaitlin McGovern, Joanna D’Amico and Abigail Cerio. Following them are two of their mothers, Christine D’Amico, left, and Christine McGovern. The incoming students’ day was filled with tours of campus buildings, lectures and a range of activities. It’s the second of four weeks of orientation for groups of new students.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Incoming students and their mothers walk the SUNY Cortland campus Thursday during orientation activities. The students are, left to right, Kaitlin McGovern, Joanna D’Amico and Abigail Cerio. Following them are two of their mothers, Christine D’Amico, left, and Christine McGovern. The incoming students’ day was filled with tours of campus buildings, lectures and a range of activities. It’s the second of four weeks of orientation for groups of new students.

Holding up their opened red-and-white SUNY Cortland folders like a map, more than 500 future students of the college and their parents meandered around the campus like tourists in a big city Thursday.

Throughout the day they navigated buildings, sat through lectures and participated in various activities, all part of their first day of college orientation.

This is the second of four weeks of orientation, which provides programs for first-year and transfer students. Transfer students go for one day of orientation, while first-year students go for two, staying over night in a dorm on campus. The groups of students are divided up throughout the weeks, depending on their major.

“It’s going great,” said Marinda Souva, assistant director of transfer programs, who organizes the orientation. “There is a lot of excitement and a lot of good questions being asked.”

Most of the questions came from the inquisitive parents trying to learn all they can about the campus and financial aid programs.
Ed Battaglia, from Mahwah, N.J., attended the first-year-student orientation Thursday with his son Alec. He said he liked what the orientation had to offer and he was learning a lot. Aside from seeing the campus his son will be a resident of for, presumably, the next four years, he said the lecture on financial aid was a big help.

But while the senior Battaglia was finding the benefits of the orientation, his son Alec, who will be studying criminology, was underwhelmed. Alec Battaglia said he already saw all of the school when he attended an early visit in October, so there was nothing new he was learning.

The same sentiment was shared among a few other students, including Kaitlin McGovern, of Massapequa, who will be studying adolescent education for math. She said she knew everything about the school coming in, so the early portion of the tour wasn’t entirely engaging. She wanted to do more activities with her major, which the second portion of the orientation eventually allowed for.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., students and their parents toured the campus and sat through various lectures, but afterward, the two groups were split up to take part in their own activities.

Souva said students got to interact with other students in their own major and through the allocated programs, they try to have students find at least one other person they can pair up with.

“Many students are scared when they first come in: ‘Will I make any new friends?’” Souva said.

To alleviate that fear, many fun icebreaker activities are set up for students to interact with one another and get comfortable around the people they will have classes with.

“It’s nice to see unfamiliar faces,” said Abigail Cerio, of Cicero, who will also be majoring in adolescent education for math.
She was also excited to take part in the overnight stay. All of the participating students stay in one dormitory, away from their parents, to experience living on a campus. And for some, living with a roommate for the first time.

Students also got a taste of what a college class will be like. Souva said faculty members of each major put on 20-minute lectures, showing first-year students the difference between a college class and a high school class.

The goal of the orientation is to give the students the best introductory, informative and social experience. All of the programs may not be an instant hit, but Souva said the school makes changes every year to try to improve the orientation’s programs.

“We want to make sure folks are getting what they need out of the program, so we look at our feedback from participants every year,” Souva said. “We have a committee on campus that actually puts together the orientation program.”

For this year, on the second day of the program, a new event was added which tries to inspire students to be a “Red Dragon” — the school’s mascot. Its underlying meaning is to show students what it will take for them to be successful at SUNY Cortland.

Transfer students’ orientation is much different, as they have all gone through first-year activities and are only concerned with getting their classes organized, Souva said.

When orientation breaks on the second day for first-year students, parents will have closed those SUNY Cortland folders and handed them to their children, hoping they are ready for college life come August.

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