New Kensington orientation smooths class of 2021’s transition to college life

Three-day program helps incoming students feel comfortable on campus

Day One of Penn State New Kensington’s New Student Orientation features a financial aid session geared to students and parents.

Credit: Bill Woodard

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. -- Members of the class of 2021 at Penn State New Kensington began their final preparations for their college careers May 30 with the first day of the annual academic and campus orientation program.

New Student Orientation is a series of sessions spread over the summer and designed to give first-year students the tools necessary to make a smooth transition into University life. The program is a concerted effort by faculty and staff to ensure incoming students feel comfortable and welcome in their new surroundings. Students participate in activities designed to help them adjust to life at Penn State.

The newcomers can draw on the experiences of a crew of upperclassmen, known as Orientation Leaders, who were chosen to guide the freshmen through their first academic year. Orientation Leaders are among the campus’ outstanding student leaders. The selection process is a rigorous one, and only the best of the best earn the moniker.

The three-day orientation program provides students with a basic understanding of what will be expected of them at Penn State and how their particular abilities and interests may fit with one or more of the University's majors.

-- Day One features six sessions in June, July and August. New students are required to attend one of the sessions where they plan a course schedule, register for classes and receive general campus service information. Parents are invited to first day of activities. Families are encouraged to participate to get acquainted with the campus, its policies, procedures and services. Topics of interest for parents are "Partnering with the University" and "Billing and Financial Aid."

New to the first-day schedule is “Popportunities,” a group of afternoon mini-workshops. Students can meet fellow first-year students, relax with a community service project and make their own de-stress kits. In addition, there will be demonstrations of the campus’ newest technology -- One Button Studio (OBS). Located in the Computer Center, OBS is a recorder that produces professional-quality videos with the push of a button. Participants will get a free USB drive to make their own videos.

-- Day Two brings together all new students for the campus tradition of orientation prides. Each student is assigned to one of six pride groups headed by an orientation leader. As a pride, students attend interactive workshops to learn about academic procedures, electronic resources and extracurricular activities. Faculty lead discussions on the summer reading assignment, “Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era” by Daniel J. Levitin.

The First-Year Summer Reading Program was instituted at the campus in 2005 to encourage reading and critical thinking and to provide a shared experience among new students. Jennifer Gilley, head librarian, organizes the program. In addition to orientation, small-group discussions are slated with fellow students, faculty and staff throughout the fall semester.

-- Day Three includes the Academic Convocation, Pride Olympics, a guest speaker and a meet-and-greet with faculty and current students in all fields of study. The convocation is a formal ceremony led by Chancellor Kevin Snider. Donning their academic robes, faculty and staff officially welcome students to the campus.

The Olympics reunites all the prides and gives students the opportunity to compete in a variety of challenges that encourage teamwork and leadership. It also gives the newcomers another opportunity to mingle with fellow freshmen.

Matt Glowacki, a nationally-known, award-winning speaker on diversity, is the special guest speaker. His presentation, “Doing Happiness,” discusses finding happiness, creating a better understanding of social justice and diversity, developing personal potential, and overcoming personal disabilities and challenges.

Glowacki, who was born without legs, resonates with audiences about feeling comfortable when interacting with others regardless of differences. A regular on the college circuit, the Wisconsin native has delivered his message to more than a million people, as well as two United States presidents. Glowacki knows his way around the campus as he addressed the Penn State New Kensington freshmen classes in 2008 and 2009.

The highlight of first-year orientation is the traditional “Rainbow Arch” photograph. Wearing their pride colors, the new students will stand together under the campus’ iconic arch for a class of 2021 portrait.

The program concludes on Aug. 18 with a maritime journey on Pittsburgh's three rivers. The annual “First-Year Sunset Boat Cruise” aboard the Rivers of Steel boat gives students a view of the many towns along the rivers and the beautiful city skyline.

As the new semester gets underway, the incoming class will join the upperclassmen Aug. 21 and begin working toward their bachelor's and associate degrees. The campus offers 10 four-year degrees and five two-year degrees. In addition, under Penn State’s 2 + 2 Plan, students can begin most of the University’s 160 majors at the New Kensington campus and complete the degree at another Penn State campus.


Bill Woodard

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

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