DePaul freshman orientation brings life to campus

Junior Raika Nuñez leads a tour group of prospective students into the John T. Richardson Library. Along with orientation groups, campus tours are some of the busiest activities at DePaul over the summer months. (Kirsten Onsgard / The DePaulia)
Junior Raika Nuñez leads a tour group of prospective students into the John T. Richardson Library. Along with orientation groups, campus tours are some of the busiest activities at DePaul over the summer months. (Kirsten Onsgard / The DePaulia)

Incoming freshman Ellie Harrison drove five and a half hours from her hometown of Tippcity, Ohio to attend DePaul’s two-day on-campus orientation session, Premiere DePaul. After applying in December, Harrison visited briefly, but was still unfamiliar with the campus and Chicago as a whole.

After her orientation session July 9-10, Harrison said she finally got the familiarity she was looking for.

“I finally went on a tour and I liked getting to know the city and get that campus feel,” Harrison said.

For incoming freshman John Schiltz, a four hour walk around campus made him feel more comfortable with DePaul’s facilities.

“It was really long,” Schiltz said. “but at least I know where everything is now.”

Harrison and Schiltz are one of over 2,600 incoming DePaul freshmen that swarm DePaul’s Lincoln Park and Loop campuses to attend orientation.  With most of the Lincoln Park and the Loop campuses empty over the summer, the Office of New Student  and Family Engagement remains one of the busiest groups on campus.

Over the two days, students follow a structured agenda of information sessions and group activities that includes academic counseling. During the two day stay, students also experience living in a DePaul residence hall.

Associate Director of New Student Programs Katie Granholm said Premiere DePaul is geared for 17-19 year old incoming freshmen who recently graduated high school.

“The primary goal is to assist students with both academic and social integration into the DePaul community,” Granholm said. “Those are the two big changes that students undergo. They need to get acclimated to the university and they need to feel like they can fit in into a community that is their home.”

Aside from scheduled activities, students get the first opportunity to meet their peers and interact with fellow freshmen.

“It’s like the first day of camp,” Schiltz said. “Everyone is starting to meet other people and it makes it easier for when the year starts.”

During the summer, orientation leaders, DePaul students whom have undergone freshmen orientation themselves, facilitate activities and provide support during Premiere DePaul. For Orientation leader and Chicago Quarter Mentor Michael Mulligan, being one of the first impressions first year students have of DePaul is not a job to be taken lightly.

After undergoing an application process that included a written application and group interview, Mulligan had over 100 hours of summer training in preparation for the 13 Premier DePaul orientation sessions. For Mulligan, accepting his jobs as a student leader was more than a resume booster.

“I was inspired to take these jobs simply for involvement in the DePaul community, but as time went on things changed,” Mulligan said, later adding, “The hardest part is getting the students to relax and come out of their shell, but that’s our job.”

After attending his Premiere DePaul session, incoming freshman Matt Ginsberg has a full schedule and his first DePaul experience under his belt. With only weeks left before he steps foot into his first college class, Ginsberg is most excited about his Explore Chicago course.

The Chicago Quarter, a first-year program for freshmen students is designed to introduce students to the city of Chicago while also preparing them for the college experience. Consisting of either Explore or Discover Chicago courses offered during the Autumn quarter, students have over 100 course options with topics ranging from art and literature to business and politics.

These classes are taught by a team consisting of a faculty instructor, staff professional and Chicago Quarter Mentor (CQM), a student leader.

But to become a CQM student leader is another lengthy process. Cooper Packard, a sophomore, underwent an interview process involving both Orientation and Transition leaders. As a CQM, Packard was placed into a two credit LSP 320 class, meeting weekly.

“We spent all spring quarter learning effective teaching methods, learning the content of lesson plans, and learning how to be a good student mentor,” Packard said. Packard attributes his growing love for DePaul to his own positive experience during his Chicago Quarter class. “I know a good or bad Discover or Explore class can really affect a student’s perception of DePaul and college as a whole, my own CQM did a great job welcoming us to Chicago and I want to do the same for others.”

For Granholm, student leaders are a crucial component to the freshmen experience.

“These student leaders are really critical to implementing these student programs, they are really the helpers,” Granholm said. “Student leaders provide administrative support for those programs but they are more importantly able to reflect on their experiences at DePaul and share their stories  to incoming students in a way that’s personal to them.”

With only weeks to go before his first class, Ginsberg is feeling confident about stepping onto DePaul’s campus as a student.

“Obviously an incoming freshmen is always going to be nervous, no matter how well you prepare them,” he said. “Nothing you do in a presentation can really prepare them for college. But orientation gives advice that your friends would give you and its helpful going into the school year.”