The fun and games of orientation begin today

The force will be with 7,500 new students as they arrive at York’s Keele and Glendon campuses today for the official start of Welcome Week. Over the course of nine days new students to York will enjoy a host of fun, games and parties organized with one purpose – to welcome them to university life.

 Above and below: Orientation events from previous years

Welcome Week, which takes place Aug. 28 to Sept. 5, offers a variety of social events and activities organized by the York Orientation Directors Association (YODA). The group is made up of member representatives from college and Faculty councils, the York Federation of Students, the Student Centre, and the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD) . The YODA team works toward putting on the best possible Welcome Week for first-year students and is responsible for training over 500 upper-year students who volunteer as frosh bosses to lead social orientation events.

York alumna Rachel Blair (BA ‘06) has spent the summer as YODA Chair organizing the social side of orientation. A former first-year student who became a frosh boss and a member of the Winter’s College Council, she now works as part of the team at SCLD that coordinates activities surrounding orientation. New students to York can experience a fully integrated academic and social orientation. (See the Aug. 23 issue of YFile.) The social orientation of new students is fun with a purpose, says Blair. “The academic orientation is organized by each of the faculties and the offices of the college masters. They work on the daytime programming that runs during orientation week. YODA looks after the social orientation. We look after the get-to-know-each-other events rather than the get-to-know-the-Faculty events.

“YODA plans social functions and works in conjunction with other groups on campus to organize sport events, joint events between colleges and cultural programming, and we bring in performers,” said Blair. “Each college works on its own schedule and then we help coordinate these.”

YODA handles the scheduling with the goal of ensuring that both academic and social programming run without a hitch. “The first time we meet is in early May. The college orientation Chairs are hired months earlier and by the time June rolls around, they have a tentative schedule in place,” said Blair. “After that we work through every aspect of event planning and make sure we have the details and the risks assessed. That means communicating with a number of offices at York including Temporary Use of Space, Facilities Services and Security Services, so that by the time August arrives, everything is in place.”

Blair explained, “We start off working with just the first-years in their colleges, then we get together to have joint events between colleges.” The group coordinates a dry pub night for students on the Thursday of Welcome Week and frosh-boss training. “By the time we get to Yorkfest on Sept. 13, everyone at York has gotten together and the frosh have been able to meet the rest of the student community,” said Blair. “The emphasis for all our events is building friendships and communities in a safe, fun way for all the frosh including those who commute to the University. Orientation at York is a comfortable experience for first-year students and organizers.”

Orientation events are tiered. Each college organizes activities such as sport events, scavenger hunts, socials, breakfasts and dances. The colleges then join forces and hold larger joint events and then the entire first-year community meets for the dry pub night. Finally first-year students are integrated into the larger York community during Yorkfest on Sept. 13.

Each college usually has a core group of around 300 frosh and there could be as many as 500 volunteer frosh bosses working with the groups. “Our goal is to have every first-year student have connections with at least one group,” said Blair.

“Having the opportunity to meet people in their faculties, colleges and residences is very important and especially so for students who commute to the campus. We work very hard to ensure they participate in Welcome Week and in all the activities and events organized for frosh. Helping each first-year, whether they live on campus or commute to the University, to meet friends and develop social groups is the whole goal of York’s orientation,” said Blair.

“University life is very much centred around the people you meet and the connections you make,” said Blair. “We have to recognize that all the streams coming into the University come from so many different places. Welcome Week provides a safe introduction to University life and it really is a life-changing experience.”

For more information and a full schedule of York’s social orientation for first-year students, click here.