Chatham’s orientation emphasizes socialization, not education


Students dance to the Cha Cha Slide during the Fun Fest on the Quad on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

Abigail Hakas

College orientation has a simple purpose: preparing students to face their first week of classes. Unfortunately, Chatham’s orientation falls short by prioritizing socialization over giving students vital information. 

I transferred to Chatham from the Community College of Allegheny County in the fall of 2021. My orientation experience was riddled with awkward socialization, a complete lack of meaningful information and an overwhelming sense of doubt. 

First-year students are required to attend three days of orientation events, four if you are a residential student. These required events are mandatory for transfer students as well.

Chatham’s orientation places a heavy emphasis on socialization: you are required to meet your orientation leader, who is required to conduct icebreakers; transfer students are required to attend a transfer lunch. There is an orientation group debrief after one of the required speeches.  

For most students, this might be a fun and slightly awkward start to their college social lives. For the socially anxious and the introverted, this is a draining way to begin their time at Chatham. 

I only attended the mandatory events, but still left the week feeling completely exhausted, mentally and physically. After doing icebreakers with my orientation group, we were all supposed to go to lunch, but my orientation leader informed us that it was not mandatory.  

Instead of eating lunch, I sat in the student lounge at Falk Hall and tried to recover. I felt completely overwhelmed by the large groups of people on the quad and the forced socialization that I even began to wonder if I was prepared for college or not. 

This doubt came from being required to attend uncomfortable social events, but not being told nearly enough information about the college itself. Orientation did not provide me with the necessary information to make it through my first semester of college. 

I took Strategies for Success in College, the first-year course that teaches students about Chatham resources, but not every transfer student does. Students should not have to wait until the semester has already started to learn about the college they are paying to attend. 

Harley Berger ‘26 echoed some of these concerns, “I was under the impression that the shuttle would take us anywhere or pick us up from somewhere and I learned in a situation that wasn’t the best situation to be in like we were trying to get home in the dark in a not great place, that the shuttle didn’t… I think that should have been communicated better.” 

Orientation also fails to teach some of the most important information. Nowhere on the agenda of the required events is a tour of the campus or students’ future classrooms. However, Sex Signals, a partially improvised sex education performance that rehashed things first-year students had already covered in a required sexual assault prevention module before orientation, is mandatory to attend.  

While students could sign up for an optional tour of Shadyside Campus, it begs the question of why doing icebreakers is a required activity but learning how to navigate the campus students are potentially spending the next four years at is not.

Despite all the issues with orientation, there is vital information that is taught. One of the required events is department orientation, where students meet faculty in their department and learn more about their declared major. 

This is potentially the most essential event, but it also falls short in preparing students. Majors are grouped together by department, not by content. This means Arlo McFarland ‘26, a student majoring in communications with a concentration in journalism, was in the same group as the music and arts majors. 

“Yes, I do wish that the academic orientation was a little bit more split up because I am a communications major, so it covers three different focuses, and we were in there with art and music… it was a lot of advertisement-based [content] so it was a lot of stuff that did not necessarily apply to me or a lot of the other people in there,” they said.

Chatham orientation can be fun and a great opportunity for students to meet, but it should also be educational. Students should not have any lingering doubts or questions about Chatham going into the semester; orientation should answer all of these questions. Right now, it does not.