Hamilton welcomes new students to the Hill with January Orientation

By Dan Snyder ’17

For most students, orientation is a warm affair, but some Hamiltonians move to the Hill amongst snow and freezing temperatures. This past Friday, Jan. 16, 45 new students, six transfer students and 39 January Admission students, began their time at Hamilton with January Orientation, a similar but shorter version of August Orientation.

Students were welcomed with a lunch open to new students and their families, Orientation Leaders and faculty and staff associated with Orientation. President Joan Hinde Stewart, Dean of Admissions Monica Inzer, Dean of Faculty Patrick Reynolds and Dean of Students Nancy Thompson all provided welcoming remarks.

Six Orientation Leaders, all of whom had experiences either as an OL in August or as a Resident Advisor, led groups of students through the weekend. Jen Lengvarsky ’16, Allie Goodman ’15, Geleece Brady ’16, Siobhan Lambert ’17, Caleb Williamson ’17 and Lexie Judd ’17 ended their breaks early to welcome the new students to the Hill. Coordinator of Orientation and First Year Programs Tessa Chefalo described the OLs as “incredibly hard-working, energetic and thoughtful about creating an inclusive and relaxed experience for their groups over the course of the weekend,” and added, “I was impressed by the initiative they took.”

According to Chefalo, January Orientation is modeled after August Orientation and includes many of the same events. There were numerous highlights of the weekend. Senior Associate Dean of Students for Strategic Initiatives and Title IX Coordinator Meredith Harper Bonham and Assistant Dean of Students for Residential Life Travis Hill facilitated an event called “It’s Your Call: Promoting Healthy Choices” which touched on alcohol and sexual assault prevention. Director of Diversity and Inclusion Amit Taneja ran an activity called “Living in a Community” which facilitated discussion on difference and community at Hamilton. First Year Experience Librarian Alex Rihm provided an introduction to Burke Library’s services and facilities. New to Orientation was a presentation called “What is the First Year Experience?” which served as an introduction to the FYE presented by FYE leaders Denise Meza Reyes ’16 and Bennett Hambrook ’17.

Additionally, there were social events in the evenings, which allowed for students to get to know their OLs and group members: bingo, game night and a movie in the Glen House. According to Chefalo, January Orientation is less regimented than August Orientation because students have more free time to mingle, get settled in their residence halls and learn their way around campus.

The main event of the weekend was January Hamilton Serves. Director of Community Outreach Amy James runs the program that sent seven trips, led by Alternative Spring Break leaders, to various locations in Clinton, Utica and Marcy. January Admission student Adam Stern ’18, who went on a Habitat for Humanity trip said, “I’ve seen the houses go up and the effect it has, but working behind the scenes in the below freezing weather puts the whole process in perspective and makes it far more impressive.”

Compared to the much larger Hamilton Serves in August, James said, “January Hamilton Serves is so much smaller so I actually get to meet and chat with the students at Sadove before they go out. It’s fun and pretty relaxed!” She added, “I love connecting students via good and meaningful projects! I think it’s an important component of orientation because students tend to bond over work.”

Because of it’s smaller size, January Orientation moves much faster than August Orientation. For example, Matriculation takes one hour compared to four and a half in August. Chefalo commented, “The looser schedule and smaller student numbers of January Orientation mean that new students are introduced to academic and co-curricular life at Hamilton, and some of our core community values, while also having the opportunity to interact and ask more questions during presentations, and to spend time socializing with their peers in a less structured setting.”

For the students, January Orientation marks a transition point, either from another College or University, a gap semester or the Hamilton program with Arcadia  University in London. Stern ’18, who spent the fall in London said, “Obviously it’s not the easiest change to go from the big city to a small town, but it wasn’t long before Hamilton felt like home.”

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