NC State magazine looks back at first-year orientation

May 18, 2015
By Chris Saunders

The graduation gowns have only been hanging in closets for about a week since commencement, but NC State is already turning the page to the upcoming fall. And a large portion of that task will begin taking place in seven weeks, when first-year orientation sessions kick off.

orientationOrientation, which is held over a two-day period each summer by the Office of New Student Programs along with each college, will welcome the freshmen and transfers to campus throughout July. It’s a chance for new students to see campus for the first time, take a tour, get ideas how to set up their dorm room and start forming relationships with other first-years.

The spring issue of NC State magazine, which should be hitting mailboxes soon, features orientation and gives a glimpse into what those freshmen and transfer students — and their parents — encounter for those two-day summer sessions. And in our research for that article, we were able to trace orientation’s history back to the 1940s, when it was run by the YMCA.

Here are some of the highlights of orientation through the years we found as we thumbed through old Technicians and records in the archives at NCSU Libraries:

1941In 1941, North Carolina State College saw a record 0f 988 freshmen registering. During that decade, orientation lasted an entire week, not the two days it will be in 2015. It began with a retreat for the freshman class.

By the late 1950s, the program had become more organized. Freshmen were broken up into groups of 20-25 students, and they learned about topics that included academics, student government, the honor system, group living, the College Union and co-curricular activities.

That decade was the first time upperclassmen actually led the program. In fact, in 1959 the administration offered incentives

Students wait to move into Tucker Dorm in 1958. Photo courtesy of The Technician.

Students wait to move into Tucker Dorm in 1958. Photos courtesy of The Technician.

In 1959, the administration offered incentives for being an orientation leader. “A certificate of commendation will be placed in his permanent record, and the Student Government will issue a similar certificate of commendation,” The Technician reported. “The student orientation committee will advance pre-registration privileges to leaders. To help cover the cost of meals for that week, each group leader will receive a $5.00 meal book from the cafeteria.”

By the early 1960s, the programming had become more narrow in scope, as freshmen took in programming on the honor code, dorm life and traffic regulations. They also could try out for band and rush fraternities during orientation week. Wellness and fitness were at the forefront of the program, as students had to undergo a physical exam, take a physical skills test, have an X-ray taken and complete a hygiene test.

Enrollment had tripled since the early 1940s when 3,300 new students attended orientation in the 1971. Students were able to for the first time choose what programs they wanted to attend during the event, according to The Technician. One of those programs was a drug seminar with the “SBI Drug Bus.”

Photo by Marc Hall.

Orientation 2014. Photo by Marc Hall.

In the late 1980s, NC State’s student leaders grew vocal in opposition to a proposal that would have consolidated orientation. The move would have taken the programming out of the hands of each individual college.

Orientation 2014, which we observed last year for the feature article in our magazine, welcomed 4,300 students. Programming was still changing as it had decades earlier, with study abroad being featured to first-year students for the first time in order to help promote student success. Orientation leaders got paid for their service and received housing for the duration of the summer while the program went on.

And they got new red polo shirts.






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