Pre-Orientation programs adapt to online format for the summer

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File illustration by Emma Ruck

Bio&ChemEXCEL and Bridge are both moving to an online format.

Baylor Spears, Reporter

In accordance with University guidelines, Northwestern’s summer pre-orientation programs for incoming first-year students will be conducted remotely. The Bio&ChemEXCEL and Bridge programs are both moving online.

Targeted at first-generation and low-income students, the two programs provide students the opportunity to take classes on calculus, chemistry, journalism and other topics to help students transition into Northwestern. This gives students a chance to begin building their community and adapt to coursework before the year begins.

Luke Flores, associate director of First Year & Transition Programs, recruits students for both programs and teaches in the Bio&ChemEXCEL program. Flores said the shift online required him and instructors to rethink the structure of the programs.

“Since we are not able to bring the students to campus and house them on campus, we knew that we were going to need to be a little bit more accommodating with what we’re able to provide to students because they would be in different time zones and in different living circumstances,” Flores said.

Flores explained one of his concerns about the change was making sure all students had access to technology. Through work with the Provost’s office they were able to help students gain access to funds that could be used for laptops, headphones and other necessities.

In addition, Flores said they are working to find the most flexible schedule. This means repeating the same session of class twice a day, so if one time does not work for students then another time may.

Counselors are also thinking about ways to create the best experience for students. Weinberg junior Ren Mondesir, a Bridge II counselor, said she is worried about creating both social and educational experiences for students. Bridge II, one part of the Bridge program, focuses on preparing second-year students to take organic chemistry.

“I was really sad about it,” Mondesir said. “Bridge I and Bridge II are where I found all my friends, and the people I still hang out with are from those programs. Having it be over Zoom where everyone is in their own houses, it’s really disappointing because not only are you learning, but there’s also a social aspect and that’s kind of removed.”

Mondesir said she is not sure exactly how Bridge will look because it is still more than a month away. Despite this, she said she already knows she wants to make herself available to students so that they can ask class-related questions and get to know her better.

Bio&ChemEXCEL begins this month, however, so these counselors have a more concrete idea of what the program will look like. Weinberg senior Imani Bah, a counselor for the Bio&ChemEXCEL program, also said she wanted to work on creating campus-like experiences.

“We’re being more creative with the types of events we’re doing because everything is online, that’s the biggest thing. They’re not going to be on campus at all,” Bah said. “We’re figuring out how we’re going to get them to get familiar with campus. We’re figuring out how we’re going to get them to socialize outside of scheduled Zoom times.”

Students will have many options for participating in virtual events. For example, Flores said video calls between counselors and students called the “Breakfast Club” and “Afternoon Tea” are being planned. There, students can possibly play online games and hang-out.

Flores said learning how to put together online events and curriculum is one of the benefits of virtual programming.

“One thing that I could see being very positive about all of this is that we as faculty, as administrators, are getting outside of our comfort zones,” Flores said. “Sometimes we get so used to business as usual, and doing things a particular way because that’s the way it’s been, without always thinking, is this the best way for it to be.”

Flores said knowing that incoming first-year students experienced unusual senior years due to COVID-19 inspired him to put together the best program possible. He also said supporting students is why having this program, even online, is so important.

“Our students are important. They matter,” Flores said, “It’s a challenge to put programs online. It requires more effort but our students are worth that effort. They are worth us putting that effort forward to give them as positive of an experience as we can.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @baylorspears_

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