Perspectives Online

Learning the Ropes. New and returning CALS students get a Wolfpack welcome. By Suzanne Stanard

Student organization demonstrations had a rodeo feel at CALS Welcome Week in August.
Photo by Daniel Kim

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: I will not stress over my schedule!" This encouragement from Dr. Barbara Kirby, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' associate director of Academic Programs, came during the opening presentation of 2007 new student orientation.

With a collective sigh and bit of laughter, more than 300 students duly repeated the mantra. Packed into Stewart Theater on a late-July morning for the first of a number of orientation activities, the students fidgeted nervously and took furtive glances around at the sea of fellow college-freshmen-to-be.

Dr. Barry Croom of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and students share ice cream at a welcome back social.
Photo by Daniel Kim
Just one month away from being bona fide N.C. State University students, this crowd seemed eager to nail down their schedules, knock out placement tests and, of course, get on to the social activities.

"We want the students to leave feeling that they're part of our College family, but at the same time, not overwhelm them," said Tricia Buddin, CALS coordinator of recruiting and first-year experiences.

The College held four two-day orientation sessions this summer, and just about all of its anticipated 850 new freshmen were able to attend, according to Buddin.

Each session began with a broad overview of the College, during which students heard from a variety of administrators. A highlight of the overview was a "man on the street" video series in which current students talked about everything from their favorite professors to their advice to newbies. One of those nuggets of wisdom: Be careful not to trip on the campus' infamous bricks.

Freshmen trying to find a place at N.C. State drew guidance from departmental displays (top) and tips from fellow students.
Photo by Daniel Kim
"I've always been a State fan," said new student Whitney Greene, 18, from Sparta. While her high school graduating class had only 97 people, she says that she's not intimidated but instead ready to leave the mountains and start life as a college student in Raleigh. "I want to be a veterinarian. I've always loved animals."

Greene is part of a record-breaking freshman class at N.C. State. At 4,750, this year's class is the largest in North Carolina and the largest in university history.

New freshmen in the College post some impressive statistics, averaging 1149 on the SAT and boasting a 4.12 weighted high school grade point average. Nearly 40 percent of the College's new freshmen ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

Assigned to orientation counselor (OC) group number 24, Greene set off from the opening session to get her first taste of campus dining with lunch at Fountain Dining Hall.

Then it was back to Talley Student Center for an OC group meeting - and the dreaded ice-breaker activity. But this one turned out to be fun. As a roll of toilet paper was passed around the room, each student had to tear some off and, for each square, tell an interesting fact about him- or herself.

After the OC group meeting wrapped up, Greene headed down the hall to meet her academic adviser.

The late-afternoon orientation sessions ranged from foreign language placement testing to marching band auditions, as well as a workshop called "Finding Your Place at N.C. State," which focused on getting involved in the university.

"I'm interested in joining the clogging team and the poultry science club, and I might also try for club swimming," said Derek Starnes, 18, from Granite Falls. Starnes, who plans to major in poultry science, has only one complaint: "My schedule on Friday has an 8 a.m. class and a 3 p.m. class, so it's going to be a long day."

After a packed afternoon, the evening's social activities were a welcome respite. Choices included basketball games, a ping-pong tournament, comedy show and a "blast from the past" campus tour. Or students could kick back with video games in the Wolves' Den at Talley Student Center.

The next day started early, with 7 a.m. breakfast at Fountain Dining Hall, followed by sessions about information technology, registration and the university cashier's office.

After lunch, the OC groups participated together in the "Aware Wolf Fair" to learn about student organizations and campus resources, followed by a campus tour. The day and the orientation experience ended with "Pack Tracks Entry," a session dedicated to the daunting task of registration.

Then, finally, the time came for students to meet up with their parents and head home.

These activities were led by the College's Office of Academic Programs, directed by Dr. Ken Esbenshade, who said, "Orientation was a huge success.?Our faculty and staff worked extremely hard to advise students and get them registered for appropriate courses. Every student left the orientation experience with a schedule in hand, a reading assignment and the knowledge that they soon will become students at N.C. State."

For Greene, the start of school couldn't come soon enough. "I'm really excited about coming here," she said. "It's going to be a big change."