Jewell plans to welcome incoming students to campus with virtual events

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2019 orientation mentors, photo courtesy of Jewell Orientation.

Due to COVID-19, William Jewell College has altered its plans to welcome incoming first-year students to campus. Among the most significant changes to programming, the annual Cardinal Day and Summer Fling events will be virtual in 2020. 

Cardinal Days will take place June 5, 6 and 20. Cardinal Day is a day at which incoming students can learn more about Jewell and are advised about their fall semester courses. Dr. Bradley Chance, professor emeritus and director of advising explained how this year the process will be altered. The events this year will last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. via Zoom. As of writing, students can still register for June 20 Cardinal Day with this link.

The morning will host sessions from Student Life, the business office, financial aid office, etc. Rather than split students into groups to rotate between the meetings, there will be plenary sessions for each meeting that will take place with all students.

Advising will take place in the afternoon. Students will be divided into groups and placed in Zoom waiting rooms as they wait for one-on-one advising meetings.

In the waiting rooms, students will be able to interact with one another. When a student’s advising meeting is set to begin, a member of admissions staff will invite the student to join a private breakout room with an advisor – effectively escorting them to their advisors.

Advisors will be able to conduct meetings approximately similar to the normal format. As needed, advisors will be able to share screens and show students lists of courses through MyJewell. The primary aims of Cardinal Day have not changed, Chance said. Students will still be able to confirm or update their majors, create a schedule and register for courses. Advisors will be taught how to screenshot schedules, so students will be emailed their fall schedules after the meeting. 

After advising meetings, students will be encouraged to return to the waiting rooms to interact with their peers before the day officially ends. 

Although Chance is apprehensive about the many changes to the program and the potential technical difficulties, he is hopeful the days will be effective and relatively painless. He reiterated the amount of planning going into the event and his desire to maintain as many aspects of traditional Cardinal Days as possible.

“We’re trying to replicate as much as possible the way it was on the ground,” Chance said. “[…] [But it’s] one of those things where you can practice it all you want, but until you get on the field and play the game, you never really know.”

Admissions staff, some advisors and other key participants in Cardinal Day have already participated in smaller group training and planning sessions. In the coming days, all advisors will attend training sessions in order to prepare for the new format. Most of their training will consist of getting used to the technology to be used – including via Zoom, Moodle, Etrieve and other resources. 

Advisors will be taught how to use Zoom breakout rooms and how they should expect the day to proceed. They will have to adapt to waiting in Zoom rooms, advising students without pre-printed block schedules and learning how to communicate with other advisors via texting or Slack if they have questions about an advising meeting. 

Summer Fling will take place June 24 as a two-hour virtual event. Incoming students will have the opportunity to meet their peers, become familiar with campus and find a roommate. Because the typical 26-hour overnight event could not take place, Summer Fling will continue through the summer with different virtual events and social media activity on Facebook and Instagram

The June 24 event will include a virtual tour of campus; an introduction to the Jewell Orientation Instagram and Class of 2024 Facebook page; introduction to Greek Life, athletics and various student organizations; Tucker Leadership Lab interactive sessions; time to find a roommate; and a description of further summer programming.

As 2020 Summer Fling will not include an overnight portion or trips into Kansas City, the orientation event will be conducted at no charge to incoming students. All student registrants will receive Summer Fling t-shirts and goodie bags. Incoming students can register on the New Cardinals Moodle page, admitted student website or using this form by June 10. 

Katie Parrott, senior biochemistry major and 2020 orientation director, explained the goals of Summer Fling and its new format. 

“Our Summer Fling and Orientation programs are designed to give First Year students an opportunity to meet their peers, upper-class students, residence life, and Student Life staff. Specifically, Summer Fling is intended to give students an opportunity to find a roommate for the academic year, while also introducing them to the social expectations of our campus. However, due to the effects of COVID-19, we are unable to hold gatherings with a large number of people out of respect for our most vulnerable populations,” said Parrott. 

Mentor groups and other orientation activities will be altered in order to account for social distancing guidelines. Rather than having incoming student mentor groups of approximately 15 people – with two mentors and about 13 incoming students, each group will have a maximum of 10 people – either with eight incoming students and two mentors or nine incoming students and one mentor. 

Mary Dickerson, director of the first-year experience, described the role of first-year mentors in this time. 

“The mentors will be more engaged virtually throughout the summer with our new Summer Fling schedule. We still have the expectation the mentors will go through at least the first semester in providing guidance and support to their mentees so this hasn’t changed,” said Dickerson.

As the College has announced their intention to open in August, an in-person first-year orientation is set to happen in the days before classes start. At the moment, the orientation team is preparing for contingencies including having a fully on-campus orientation, a hybrid in-person and virtual orientation or a fully virtual orientation. 

Parrott expressed her enthusiasm to help transition incoming students to Jewell despite the trying circumstances of COVID-19.

“Even though this is not the most ideal way to meet our [first-year] students, my team and I are remaining optimistic. In my opinion, there’s nothing that works better than shifting our attitudes from gloom to bloom through gratitude! I am thoroughly convinced that there is good in every situation, no matter how awful it may appear. More than anything, we are grateful to be given the opportunity to virtually connect with the class of 2024 in June! Looking ahead, we are hopeful to be back on the Hill, in community, come August in order to implement our Orientation Program the traditional Cardinal way!” Parrott said.

“We remain optimistic and will encourage students to embrace the Jewell community. We are hopeful that we will start in the fall and finish our semester on-campus,” Dickerson concluded.

Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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