Psychology Major-Based Orientations: Helping Transfer Students Hit the Ground Running!
"The departmental orientation allowed me to meet my advisors, ask questions to a panel of current and former psychology students, and learn the importance of getting involved within the Psychology Department. I couldn't have asked for a better welcoming experience to the University of Washington."
- Colby Droullard (Transfer student from Everett Community College)
This past summer, the Psychology Department participated for the second year in a new model for transfer student orientations--one that welcomes students to their academic communities from day one. During the summer of 2012, Psychology was one of four departments in the College of Arts and Sciences that piloted majors-based transfer orientation sessions. "These students come to the University as juniors and really need to hit the ground running," says Psychology Advising Office Director Carrie Perrin, "we wanted to give them every opportunity to connect with their home departments, meet fellow students, faculty, advisors, and alumni, and learn about the resources available to them."
The new orientation model was developed by advisors from Psychology, Biology, History, and English, in collaboration with the UW Office of First Year Programs. A big success in its innaugural year, the program was expanded in 2013 to include the departments of French and Italian, Political Science, Spanish and Portuguese, and Art. Traditionally, Arts and Sciences advisors had brief individual meetings with incoming transfer students throughout the summer, as part of a general orientation day, but there had never been any cohesive experience designed around specific majors. "I loved the Psychology orientation session because I felt a more intimate connection with the UW and with the people I would most likely be around for the next two years," says Shayla Nawrocki, who transferred to UW from Shoreline Community College. "I was able to chat with actual Psychology majors," Shayla continues, "and it made me feel more confident and prepared to attend the UW in the Psychology program."
This majors-based orientation model includes broad introductions to the University of Washington academic culture, resources, and student life, and gives students a chance to register for autumn quarter courses. While these are previously established features of UW orientations, the majors-based sessions provided students with introductions to key people in their major departments, an in depth look at the intellectual culture of their disciplines, an opportunity to begin forming learning communities, and registration labs staffed by their departmental advisors with guaranteed access to courses required for their majors. Emily McCoy, a transfer student from Edmonds Community College, observes that "the Psychology-focused transfer orientation helped break down a really intimidating part of the transfer experience by supplying us with tools and knowledge to manage the process."
This year's four day-long Psychology sessions served roughly 80 incoming transfer students, providing them with a warm welcome and individualized attention. In preparation for each session, departmental advisors reviewed each student's transfer records, noted specific course suggestions for autumn, and prepared questions that would better assist students in getting started on their academic path here at UW. "By attending the Psychology transfer orientation I was able to get rid of some of the anxiety I had about transferring to such a large university," remembers Brenda Jackson, who transferred to UW from Bellevue College in 2012. Brenda continues that " I got to explore the campus and meet really cool people, and the advisors were very helpful and made registering for classes a breeze." Now in her senior year and set to earn her BA in winter of 2014, Brenda took part in the 2013 transfer sessions as a peer facilitator. Both she and fellow senior James LauRae are currently peer TAs in PSYCH 299 (Psychology Transfer Academic Community), a two-credit class led by Advising Director Carrie Perrin that picks up where the transfer sessions left off, helping over 60 first quarter students settle into their academic home and begin to take advantage of the wide range of opportunities available to them.
Come orientation season 2014, advisors from Psychology and numerous other Arts and Sciences departments will begin preparations for the third round of majors-based transfer sessions. Schedules will be finessed... faculty and alumni will be invited to participate... advisors will pore over students' records to prepare to best assist them... and a new cohort of incoming UW students will receive the welcome and good start that they deserve.