Published August 25, 2020 by Rebecca Goldfine

Virtual "Quarientation" Planned for First-Years

Every year, before the official start of the fall academic semester, first-year and transfer students are introduced to the life of the College during a busy four-day orientation.
A scene from move-in day four years ago.
A scene from move-in day four years ago. Things will look a bit different this year, as Bowdoin tries to keep everyone safe and healthy. One thing that won't change: lots of volunteers will be on hand to help new students move in.

They attend panels and programs, meet professors, select courses, engage in facilitated discussions with their floormates, and sign Bowdoin's matriculation books—a tradition that dates back to the founding of the College in 1794.

But with pandemic health and safety protocols in place this year, Bowdoin's orientation activities will have to be different. All the events are virtual, for one, and students will be limited in how freely they can move around campus during the initial days. (The goal is to have the matriculation books signed later in the semester.) 

"It is so important to me that students understand the kind of arrival day and orientation experience they are going to have," said Assistant Dean of First-Year Students Stephanie Rendall. 

Dean of First-Year Students Melissa Quinby added, "We've done the best we can to communicate what our quarientation will be, and we're happy to continue answering any questions or addressing any concerns that students or family members may have."

The first orientation event at Bowdoin will occur after the first-year and transfer students have arrived, taken a COVID test, and placed their belongings in their rooms. On Saturday evening, President Clayton Rose will welcome the Class of 2024, a greeting students will watch in their rooms. 

A Virtual Pre-Orientation

Before even arriving on campus, all first-years will have been invited to Virtual Open House sessions this week. These drop-in events will be hosted by the Sustainability Office, Athletics, the McKeen Center for the Common Good, SWAG (Sexuality, Women, and Gender Center), Counseling and Wellness, the Art Museum, Religious and Spiritual Life, Gender Violence Prevention and Education, and Career Exploration and Development. Dean of Students Kristina Bethea Odejimi will also offer a personal virtual "Welcome to Bowdoin" on Tuesday, August 25.

The next whole-class event on the schedule is a Zoom webinar with Jason Kilmer, at 9:45 a.m. Sunday. Kilmer, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington, will speak about his research on substance use, including recreational drugs and alcohol, by college students.

Later on Sunday, students will watch a live event from the Student Affairs Office of Inclusion and Diversity. Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Inclusion and Diversity Kate Stern said the goal of the program is to encourage first-year students to think both about what they need from an inclusive campus, and what they can do to stengthen an inclusive community.

"It’s not a one-person job. It's not a few people's job. It’s everyone's job. If everyone works together, we can have an inclusive Bowdoin," Stern said.

That online program will be the start of a series of events throughout the semester focusing on these themes. Later in September, Jamie Washington, president and founder of the Social Justice Training Institute, among other roles, will host the second event, a Zoom webinar on race, diversity, openness and inclusion.

At 8:00 p.m. Sunday, all first-year students will participate in an interactive event called Design Your Life, offered by Career Exploration and Development (CXD). Students will split into small groups of eight and meet with one of more than sixty alumni who volunteered to host a session.

"The first-years can expect a small group conversation with other students and an alum, who will speak about their time at Bowdoin and who will help them think about how they want to spend their time here," CXD Executive Director Kristin Brennan said. "The alumni perspective will give them the long view, as it comes from someone who had a bunch of ups and downs over their four years of college, and their whole lives."

Additionally, encouraging students to dwell on how they "want to be authors of their Bowdoin experience" can reinforce their sense of agency in a challenging time when nothing is normal—and much is prescriptive—about college life right now, Brennan added.

More information

To learn more about the College's fall semester health protocols, read the Campus Guide to Fall 2020.

And check out answers to frequently asked questions about arrival and orientation for the Class of 2024 and transfer students.

Within their small groups, the students will discuss their hopes for college, not just academically, but for love, work, health, and play, "or the whole person," as CXD Associate Director of Skill Development and Programming Bethany Walsh put it. One exercise has them envision being eighty years old and reflecting back on Bowdoin. "We ask them to imagine one thing they did they'll feel really great about," Walsh said. "So the students actually put out an intention, try something, and see how it goes." 

The Design Your Life activities will also reinforce cooperation among the small groups. "We're asking them to create a Bowdoin bucket list, and to help each other figure out the steps they can take to achieve what's on that list," Walsh said. "We want to give them a chance to tap each other's knowledge and skills, and to be helpful resources to each other."

During the day on Monday, students will meet with their advisors virtually, and in the evening, attend a meeting about the J-Board, or Judicial Board, and the College's academic honor code and social code.

Finally, on Tuesday, September 1 at 3:30 p.m., the College will hold its formal Convocation, which marks the official start of the academic semester. Classes begin Wednesday.