New students surf into ULV during three-day Orientation Weekend

New student Arnisha Riley, her brother, David Riley, and her boyfriend, T.J. Sanders, work to get Arnisha moved into her room in Brandt Residence Hall. / photo by Erica Paal
New student Arnisha Riley, her brother, David Riley, and her boyfriend, T.J. Sanders, work to get Arnisha moved into her room in Brandt Residence Hall. / photo by Erica Paal

by Araceli Esparza
Editor in Chief
photography by Erica Paal

Nearly 400 incoming students arrived at the University of La Verne campus Saturday, Sept. 4, to kick off Orientation Weekend and the start of “new transitions.”

The three-day event, themed “Surfing into your Future,” was part of a tradition to help students adapt to college and its pristine environment. Members of the ULV community-Orientation Week Leaders (O.W.L.s), Resident Assistants (R.A.s) and Program Assistants (P.A.s), staff and faculty-guided freshmen, transfer students and their parents through the familiarization process with the University.

Saturday, 8:43 a.m.

Mothers, fathers and new residents occupied the Brandt Residence Hall parking lot, moving boxes of clothing and other necessities to their rooms, one or two stories up. Siblings followed closely behind, grasping desk lamps and Sega PlayStations while trying not to trip on any loose cords.

“Everything’s been pretty smooth … real quick,” freshman Luke Wagner said of his move in to the residence hall. “It was a real good move-in process.”

Wagner, a resident of Big Bear, anticipates the beginning of on-campus life. He and his roommate, Josh Hannan, also from Big Bear, have already made arrangements as to who would bring the stereo system, television, VCR and computer.

On the opposite side of the campus, freshman Jennifer Newman just settled in at the Oaks Residence Hall. She and her mother have traveled to La Verne from Bellingham, Wash., for the past three days.

 Freshman Nathan Keeny and his parents, Bill and Nancy, engage in conversation about the upcoming school year outside of Founders Hall. / photo by Erica Paal
Freshman Nathan Keeny and his parents, Bill and Nancy, engage in conversation about the upcoming school year outside of Founders Hall. / photo by Erica Paal

“I was quite impressed with it [ULV] because I thought the campus was so beautiful,” Newman’s mother, Elizabeth, said. “I think going to a college like this is great for her, and I felt very secure leaving her here.”

Saturday, 11:05 a.m.

Students postpone setting up their phone message systems or touring downtown La Verne to take a seat in the Student Center gymnasium. ULV President Stephen Morgan welcomed newcomers and explained the process of transition, the central theme of the weekend.

“This is indeed a very important day of transition for all of us,” Dr. Morgan said. “And we’ll join together as a team to make that go as smoothly as we possibly can.”

He also emphasized the University’s goals to “challenge you, to push you, to extend and expand your limits as human beings … both intellectually and personally” in order to develop successful student leaders.

Saturday, 3:30-11 p.m.

“It’s been a long day, and some things took a while, but it went well,” Wagner said as the University campus became altogether calm. “I was kind of nervous, but didn’t feel afraid by the end.”

As in Wagner’s case, feelings of excitement and anxiety permeated families while final farewells were given for the remainder of the evening or for the next three months or so.

 ASF President Justin Jones Rodriguez a senior, was one of the many speakers at the welcome ceremony Saturday. He delivered his speech on eroding the line between teachers and students and the idea of everyone being a teacher as well as a student. / photo by Erica Paal
ASF President Justin Jones-Rodriguez a senior, was one of the many speakers at the welcome ceremony Saturday. He delivered his speech on eroding the line between teachers and students and the idea of everyone being a teacher as well as a student. / photo by Erica Paal

“I had about four or five parents come to me directly to say, ‘Thank you,’ ” Dr. Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs, said of families’ reactions to Orientation.

By 6:30 p.m., new students were on their own, gathered in the gymnasium once more for a couple of hours of fun and games at Playfair. Little more than two hours later, they make their way to the television area downstairs, where a hypnotist entertains the audience into the night.

Sunday, 7-10:45 a.m.

The residence halls were filled with the bustle of new students who have been getting ready for camp since earlier that morning. It is the beginning of the highlight of Orientation — a venture to Camp Pilgrim Pines in the San Bernardino Mountains — and nearly 260 freshmen and transfers filled seven busses for the commute.

Just a mile short of the destination point, Bus No. 6 stalled, and its occupants were required to transfer to Bus No. 7 for the remainder of the trip.

“It just wouldn’t have been tradition if a bus hadn’t broken down,” said Ruby Montaño-Cordova, associate dean of student affairs. “But they made it.”

Sunday, 1-2:13 p.m.

After lunch and some free time, new students gathered in the Main Lodge, where Drs. Richard Rose (assistant professor of religion and philosophy) and Christina Ayala-Alcantar (assistant professor of psychology) addressed them on issues of diversity in the college setting.

 The main session, held Saturday evening, was a chance for new ULV students to get acquainted by participating in social activities before traveling together to Pilgrim Pines the following day. / photo by Erica Paal
The main session, held Saturday evening, was a chance for new ULV students to get acquainted by participating in social activities before traveling together to Pilgrim Pines the following day. / photo by Erica Paal

“We wanted the students to have a deep understanding of the potential diversity issues they might be exposed to in their college experience,” said sophomore Ryan MacDonald, one of 30 O.W.L.s leading Orientation. “It directly applies to our campus because we have such a potpourri of ethnicities that attend this campus.”

Students later broke up in to their respective O.W.L. groups and discussed cultural issues they face or have faced.

Sunday, 6:15-7:30 p.m.

O.W.L.s presented “People to People,” to highlight issues of race, homophobia, academic dishonesty and alcohol abuse that may be part of transitions.

After each skit, students responded to the issue at hand, questioning actors both in and out of character.

“I thought it was real, and the students responded as we anticipated,” MacDonald said. “At one point, it got real emotional.”

Sunday, 8:20-11 p.m.

With the day’s program of serious topics completed, the most social aspect of camp began, and the spotlight was set on new students’ talents.

Several groups of freshmen and transfers anxiously signed up to perform songs such as “Summer Lovin'” “All I Have to Give” and “Ice Ice Baby.”

About an hour and a half later, the Main Lodge was cleared of all chairs, its lights were dimmed, and strobe lights sporadically illuminated the room. Students immediately took to the music of the disc jockey, showing off some of their dance moves into the night.

Monday, 10:15-11:30 a.m.

 Faculty, new students and their parents and families crowded into the bleachers in the Student Center gym to participate in the ULV Welcome ceremony on Saturday. The opening day featured workshops not only for the new students, but for their parents as well. / photo by Erica Paal
Faculty, new students and their parents and families crowded into the bleachers in the Student Center gym to participate in the ULV Welcome ceremony on Saturday. The opening day featured workshops not only for the new students, but for their parents as well. / photo by Erica Paal

Freshman and transfers were encouraged to seriously reflect on their individual expectations for the next two or four years, noting any aspirations on paper.

The students’ self-addressed letter was sealed and marked with their year of graduation, only to be opened their last year during the traditional Senior Retreat at Pilgrim Pines.

“I talked about keeping in touch with friends from back home, because I’m from out of town,” freshman David Martinez said of the contents of his goal letter. “That’s something that is important to me.”

Monday, 12:20 p.m.

The buses were loaded, and new students were ready to head back to La Verne. Most were exhausted from the weekend of introductions, icebreakers and informational sessions — all part of getting accustomed to a new school.

Behind the scenes of the activity, Michael Houdyshell, who directed most of the weekend, took a deep breath in relief that Orientation had gone well.

“From what I’ve seen, we’ve gotten good feedback from parents and students,” said Houdyshell, ULV’s coordinator of campus activities and commuter programs.

“It [Orientation] was very stressful for those working on it,” he said, “but out of that came a good weekend.”

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