Orientation Connects New Students Virtually



Proctors and orientation leaders welcomed students back to campus last week.

“I have three brothers, I can ride a unicycle, and I’ve been to 49 out of the 50 states.”

This is just one of the many creative submissions new students posted while played “Two Truths and a Lie” on Zoom during orientation last week. With ten percent of the student body studying remotely, the school held separate orientation sessions for new remote, boarding, and day students. 

Orientation programming this year created opportunities for student mentorship. All new students were assigned individual orientation leaders to serve as their mentors throughout the year. Aleema Kelly ’22 said, “[The] Orientation Mentorship Program [allowed us to help] with the process of building connections, and allowed everyone to check in on their orientees, answer any questions, and talk about what it means to be a Bearcat.” 

Activities held during orientation for boarding students included COVID-19 training, icebreakers, and a virtual game night. New boarding and day students also participated in three workshops facilitated by orientation leaders. The first workshop highlighted the school’s culture of support, featuring advice from students about resources they could seek out when faced with challenges. In the second workshop, focused on diversity and inclusion, students discussed the harmful impact of stereotypes. The third workshop offered an opportunity for orientation leaders to discuss their experiences with academic life. Anji Ashaye ’24 said, “My favorite part of orientation was probably when we talked about stereotypes. This allowed us [to] confront any prejudices we may have unintentionally used against each other. This made me more confident about how my experience will be at Hotchkiss as a [person of color].”

Usually, every day student is given a dorm room, where they can stay overnight and participate in dorm activities. However, this year, day students will no longer have dorm affiliations due to COVID-19 restrictions. Mrs. Christie Rawlings, director of admissions and residential life for summer portals, is serving as the day student coordinator. She helped organize orientation for day students and will coordinating day student programs throughout the year.

The Remote Learning Cohort (RLC) consists of 63 new and returning students, who are divided into groups based on their time zone. Among these students, 21 returning remote students in four states and seven countries are serving as remote learning mentors to the other 42 students in eight states and nine countries and territories abroad. Students participated in two different orientation sessions, focusing on welcoming new students and building a culture of support within the remote academic program. Ms. Jennifer Rinehart, instructor in science, and Mr. David Thompson, director of international programs, are working as the coordinators for the remote learning cohort to organize meetings and activities for the RLC. 

The school also held 11 different virtual sessions for new students and families throughout the summer, featuring teachers, coaches, and returning students. The sessions were part of a larger effort to spread the orientation experience across a wider timespan. Ms. Yasumura said, “I think, actually, orientation went from what people used to think about, just being a two or three day experience, to really being spread out, and it [will] continue to be spread out.”

After a week of being on campus, new student Logan Peloquin ’23 said, “I already feel like an active member of the Hotchkiss community, having been here just five days. [I think it’s] safe to say you could call that a successful orientation.”

Mentor groups will continue meeting throughout the rest of the school year.