In preparing a speech for the annual conference for orientation directors, I talked to many people about their views on the value of orientation and what should be included in the program and what they think would make orientation most effective in preparing students to be successful. In one conversation with the president of a large research university in the Midwest, he described the value of orientation in this manner:
Orientation is the most important moment in the matriculation, retention, and graduation process. It sets the tone for what the campus is like, expectations, social press, and culture.
I was impressed with this view of orientation, so I asked the president how the effectiveness of orientation might be measured. This was the president’s response: “I see yield as a proxy measure of success.”
When I shared these quotes with more than a thousand attendees at the annual orientation conference, I asked them how many of their presidents would have the same or a similar response. I may not have been able to see everyone since the stage lights were in my eyes, but as I looked out at the sea of orientation providers, I did not see a single hand raised. I was stunned. I came to two conclusions. One thought is that the president I spoke with is not the norm and other presidents don’t link orientation to enrollment yield. Another thought is that orientation providers do not know what the expectations are for their work.