New Student Orientation team hosts the first virtual advising day

First Virtual Advising Day, Check!

March 30, 2020

If you’re looking for some optimistic energy, you should see what Student Transitions and Family Engagement is doing with New Student Orientation. In under two weeks, the team found a way to move the first advising day of spring 2020 online for pre-registered, admitted students. The first “virtual advising day” took place on Zoom March 25, serving 45 students who will be transferring to CU Denver this fall.

“A week ago today, everything looked different,” said Christy Heaton, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for Student Transitions and Family Engagement (STFE). She said of her team: “You talk about folks who lead by example, and they definitely have done that the past two weeks.”

Going Virtual for Our New Students

Like many students across the globe, CU Denver students moved to online classes starting March 16 to help combat the community spread of coronavirus. The transition has forced everyone to adjust to a new normal of teaching, learning, and interacting online. It’s also forced members of the CU Denver community to find innovative solutions to keep the university moving forward. 

When it came to New Student Orientation and advising, Alicia Roybal, associate director for New Student Orientation, and Nicole Hoff, operations coordinator for New Student Orientation, took the lead on a virtual solution. Orientation is a significant time of the year, Roybal explained, as it’s a gauge for enrollment. “It’s used to track enrollment and how many students to expect in the upcoming semester,” she said. “And it’s really important to maintain enrollment.” 

The New Student Orientation team, which is part of STFE, and other campus stakeholders started planning the spring orientation experience last August. So, cancelling the first advising day for transfer students simply wasn’t an option. “There are a lot of students not necessarily thinking that their education is on pause,” Roybal said. “They want to know what is happening and what we are doing to help them during this time.”

A Team Effort

With teamwork and collaboration across several departments (along with many late-night emails), the program was successfully moved to Zoom. Roybal coordinated the trainings for staff and advisors, while Hoff worked diligently to get orientation leaders trained. “It’s always about the student experience,” Hoff said. “Even though it was a lot of work on our end, it was something we knew we had to do for our students.”

The entire STFE team stepped up to the plate to help “host” Zoom rooms and assist with registration, Heaton said. Staff from the Offices of the Registrar, Student Success, and Admissions jumped in to assist with planning and day-of needs. And advising units from each school and college met with the 45 students who participated. Heaton extended a note of gratitude to Margaret Wood, associate vice chancellor for Academic Achievement, and Linda Bowman, interim vice provost and senior vice chancellor for student access, for supporting and advocating for their efforts.

“We Will Get Through This”

The day went better than they imagined, Heaton said. Based on feedback from the students, the highest rated areas were knowing what degree requirements are, understanding credit hours (full time/part time), and feeling connected to CU Denver resources or a staff member. “We are especially excited about this one, because virtual programs can sometimes feel cold and less personal, but the team and the college advisors helped to alleviate that,” Heaton said. 

The STFE team remains optimistic about the future, and for the time being they will continue hosting advising days online. “Maybe we will see an increase in enrollment,” Roybal said. “Though we don’t necessarily know what is going to happen anywhere in the near future, we will get through this. We are still a community.”