The calendar may have just flipped to March, but a group of St. Bonaventure University students is already focused on enhancing the orientation experience for new students this summer.
During spring break, five St. Bonaventure students attended a conference sponsored by NODA, the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education, held at Manhattanville College.
NODA, an international professional organization, seeks to increase research, knowledge and best practices in the fields of orientation, transition and retention. The conference provided opportunities for students and professionals working in these fields to develop their skills and increase their knowledge on a wide range of topics related to students’ transition to college.
The conference created a welcoming environment where students from various colleges and universities around the nation come together to share their successful orientation programs.
For Dwight Coleman, a sophomore creative writing major at St. Bonaventure, the NODA conference was a great experience to learn more about the orientation process.
“It was so much fun to get to meet other orientation leaders and learn about their experiences as leaders at their own institutions,” said Coleman.
The conference offered several educational sessions from which participants could choose. Session included research on transgender students’ experience, strategies to promote success among Latinx students, and effective ways to educate students about consent and sexual violence, among many other topics. Presentations were led by professionals in the field of orientation, transition and retention, graduate students in higher education master’s programs, and experienced orientation leaders.
Cammie Dutchess, a junior strategic communication major, said going to the conference was an excellent opportunity to learn about other schools’ orientation strategies in order to adapt best practices to the program at St. Bonaventure.
“Going to the educational sessions was an exciting way to learn how to make orientation for our incoming students more impactful,” she said.
For Ryan Signorino, a graduate assistant in the Student Success Center, this year’s conference was different from his previous experiences at the conference.
“This was my third time going to NODA, but my first time at the graduate student level, so I definitely got a lot more professional experience and was able to network with people in the field. I really liked participating in the graduate case study since it was just two students doing it. It was a serious test of critical thinking abilities and how to apply theories and tactical practices into a complex, real-life situation,” said Signorino.
Both Calsey Bump, a senior English and adolescence education double major, and Signorino won awards in their respective case study presentations. Bump and her undergraduate case study team were recognized for their communication skills in a scenario addressing mental health and self-care. Signorino’s graduate student case study team received the award for the best overall presentation for their analysis of a complicated interpersonal conflict.
Rylee Stantz, a junior psychology major and co-coordinator of SBU’s orientation program, participated in a peer leadership training program that prepares students in leadership positions on their respective orientation staffs.
ROLI, the Returning Orientation Leader Institute, combines workshops with small-group mentorship sessions facilitated by professional staff members from a variety of colleges and universities. Stantz was one of 45 undergraduate participants from more than 20 institutions to complete the ROLI program.
Stantz, Coleman, Dutchess, Signorino and Bump, along with the rest of the Orientation Team, will use the information they learned at the conference as they prepare to welcome St. Bonaventure’s Class of 2024 at orientation this summer.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2019, St. Bonaventure was named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.
St. Bonaventure has selected “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown as the All Bonaventure Reads (ABR) book for 2020-2021.
“I’m Still Here” challenges readers to face how the institutions we live within have an inherent structure supporting whiteness. The author, who was named Austin to avoid preconceived ideas about black-sounding names, recounts her experience growing up in a white community and her journey working toward racial inclusivity in society.
Brown discusses how racial injustice has permeated all facets of society and in order for people to move toward understanding and equality, they must be more willing to live out their words rather than simply speak them.
The All Bonaventure Reads format will be different this year, as are many initiatives, due to COVID-19. The university’s first-year students typically receive the ABR book at Orientation in July, read it during the summer, and prepare an essay as their first college assignment.
With Orientation moving online this summer, “I’m Still Here” will be given to students when they move in during Welcome Days and will be incorporated into the curriculum of the first-year seminar course, SBU-101, along with other campus events during the fall semester. The summer assignment will instead be an essay asking students to reflect on themes found in “I’m Still Here,” St. Bonaventure’s 15th all-campus read.
“Brown’s authoritative tone and moving message make this a must-read”
— Publishers Weekly
“Austin Channing Brown introduces herself as a master memoirist. This book will break open hearts and minds.”
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