By Hannah Masling | Photo by John Le
First-year students across campus hunkered down in their dorms, adjusting pillows, pulling covers tight, and turning fans to their highest setting. No, they weren’t getting ready for bed — they were logging on for the class of 2024’s New Student Orientation (NSO).
With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting the ability to safely conduct an in-person NSO, Colorado College developed an entirely virtual alternative to the annual program. The six-day experience consisted of daily virtual Zoom presentations, choose your own adventure sessions, and Priddy meetings — with a handful of small-group, in-person activities on the last day.
Since the usual NSO experience entails exciting outdoor adventures and large group gatherings, students were understandably disappointed by what the virtual programming left out.
“I expected there to be a lot more in person activities, but there really weren’t any,” Carmen Villalba ’24 said.
Though traditional NSO experiences were missed, first-year students still found value in the programming. A fan favorite Zoom presentation was “Building an Inclusive Campus Community,” hosted by Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington. Despite a campus-wide Wi-Fi shutdown during the middle of the session, Washington led an engaging discussion on the importance of recognizing and honoring CC students’ diversity.
“As a [person of color] at a majority white school, it’s great to have discussions which revolve around diversity and equity, specifically as they pertain to the CC community,” said Adel Salih ’24.
“You got to see how other kids were feeling and what the first-years are going through. [There was] one question that was like, ‘Are you nervous to be here?’ and there were just a lot of other kids [who were] nervous, and I was like, ‘OK, cool, I’m not the only one,’” Addi Schwieterman ’24 added.
Villalba particularly enjoyed the “Sense of Place” presentation, hosted by the Collaborative for Community Engagement.
“It emphasized how we can get involved in the community, and I really liked how [the host] said, ‘We’re not going to Colorado College, we are Colorado College,’” Villalba said.
But not all aspects of NSO were quite as well-appreciated. Both Villalba and Schweiterman commented on their disappointment in the nightly Priddy meetings.
“I wish they were longer; they feel kind of rushed,” Schwieterman said.
“I don’t feel like I really benefit that much from them. It’s just hard to make connections that way,” Villalba said. “The friends I have made, I have made through personal choice and interactions or in person. Online Priddy didn’t do much for me, to be honest.”
Forming connections with other first-year students wasn’t only limited by the short Priddy meetings. NSO’s virtual format often stood in the way of building relationships.
“If [NSO] were to be in person, we’d get to all be together, we’d get to see other people’s reactions, and it would just feel more like a community … it’s underwhelming for what you thought the start of college would be,” said Schwieterman.
But despite frustration surrounding NSO’s virtual format, students were appreciative of what the NSO leaders had organized given the circumstances.
“My Priddy leaders … [made] the most out of an unconventional school year,” Salih said.