Incoming students at the University of New Mexico are being welcomed virtually with an online New Student Orientation (NSO) experience for 2021 called “NSO … To-Go!” This mandatory two-day summer program is meant to prepare new freshmen for college life, and sessions for first-year students will be held from June 1 to Aug. 18.
This year’s NSO will include self-paced modules about UNM, personalized degree information and UNM’s sexual misconduct training. Zoom presentations about being a new student, paying for college and more will be included. There will also be a virtual Ethnic and Resource Center open house, as well as a discovery fair to showcase what available resources UNM holds.
Students will attend Zoom meetings with their NSO orientation leader, NSO groups and their advisors. NSO groups are separated by major; if there are not enough students in attendance within one major, then it is divided by college.
NSO is constantly adapting to COVID-19 regulations by taking advantage of online modules, Zoom presentations and various visits from different departments and student organizations, according to director Jose Villar. NSO was also able to implement feedback from student surveys, verbal feedback from NSO orientation leaders and staff observations to implement live virtual event technology, as well as additional Zoom check-ins with NSO leaders.
“The wheel has not stopped turning,” Villar said.
This year, Villar said the team was focused on increasing “student-to-student” and “student-to-organization” interaction. One example of how this is being done is the discovery fair, which will simulate an on-campus experience. Students will be able to virtually visit over 60 online booths and meet other students in real-time. Villar said this is still in beta testing.
“We are hopeful that this experience is going to allow students to interact with departments and interact with student organizations, which (the students) were not able to do last year,” Villar said.
UNM student Brianna Allen participated in “NSO … To Go!” in 2020 and said it left her out of touch with the UNM community and bored with the program.
“I was excited to do NSO in person and spend the night on campus — doing it online wasn’t very exciting,” Allen said. “It didn’t make me excited to start my new year.”
However, Allen did see the benefits from doing it from the comfort of her own home. In general, Allen said more peer interaction would have made the experience more memorable overall, which is one of the factors Villar said they are trying to improve at NSO this year.
Villar said he believes many students did have a positive experience of NSO in 2020, and that engagement at NSO is a shared responsibility between organizers of NSO and students.
Zoe Perls is a freelance reporter at the University of New Mexico. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @zoeperls