New Student Orientation (NSO) may join the increasing list of services being transferred online in response to COVID-19.

NSO, which typically occurs during the summer, is a mandatory two to three-day orientation for incoming University of New Mexico students. The purpose of the orientation is to welcome students to the UNM community through a combination of team-building activities and sharing resources for succeeding in a University setting.

An online orientation option had been available for specific student populations previous to the technological shifts brought by COVID-19. Since this is an already existing initiative, an exclusively online orientation format could quickly extend to every incoming student should the need arise.



Jose Villar, senior program manager of the College Enrichment Program and NSO program manager, explained that all NSO staff are currently members of the Association for Orientation, Transition and Retention in Higher Education (NODA), which connects them to college orientation leaders across the country.

"NODA has been a great platform that allows us the opportunity to share ideas and best practices," Villar said. "There are certainly different models that are out there — our task is to develop what is best for UNM while keeping in mind what may be brand new to us this year may be already well established at another institution."

Questions persist as to whether an online format would eliminate team-building activities, reduce the need for NSO orientation leaders, require programs like Zoom to be used to conduct information sessions and presentations or continue to span over multiple days as done previously.

Villar said at this point in time, these questions cannot be answered with the current information available to the University. He also said that there isn't a specific deadline set in place for making a definitive decision on whether NSO will be transferred to an online format.

"At the moment we are closely monitoring the situation and developing multiple contingency plans that incorporate the guidance and recommendations provided by experts, including leadership at the University, local, state and federal levels," Villar said.

Villar emphasized the importance of NSO contributing to existing efforts to "flatten the curve," a term that refers to reducing the projected number of individuals who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time.

"In recent weeks, we all have been impacted in some way and are doing things a little different than before for the health and well-being of our communities. New Student Orientation is no exception," Villar said. "We will continue to be flexible to assist in any way we can and creatively address the challenges as they arise."

As of the publication of this article, there are 363 confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico, with 148 of those cases in Bernalillo County

Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli