“New Student Orientation” is a familiar concept in the world of academia. When starting graduate school, students know that they can expect information, resources, and tools; gatherings, sessions, introductions to people and places that will be meaningful to their academic experience.

But how do we orient and connect when students and classmates are joining at different times, from different places, and with varying degrees of ease related to technology and access?

These questions have shaped much of our work within the Office of Students and Alumni in recent months. I would imagine that they have shaped your experience as well.

Some students in the 2021 cohort started taking classes this winter or spring.. Others have just enrolled and are figuring out how to access student email, wondering where to get textbooks, and are swimming in unknowns, wondering what an online or an on-campus classroom will be like. Some have recently moved and are settling into a new place in a new city. Others are preparing to support children as they start school while you start school yourself. Wherever you are today, however you are feeling about starting classes in September, we value your presence, our relationship with you, and your relationships with one another.

New Student Orientation for all incoming 2021 students will involve several pieces. The first, a course called Frameworks & Intersections, launched for you on MyCampus this week. The second part of New Student Orientation will occur on campus, relative to your modality:

And third, all incoming and returning students will gather by Zoom for (Re)Orientation on Wednesday, September 15 from 9:00-11:00am PT.

Mark your calendars and see the event page for more information about all of these orientation events.

Here is a preview of one of your first assignments for your Frameworks & Intersections course:

For many years we’ve had a tradition of asking our incoming cohort to creatively introduce themselves to each other and to our community using a simple sheet of paper. Playfully titled Who Am I? this non-graded assignment is a way of collectively representing the people, perspectives, and stories that make up your incoming cohort.

In the past, compositions have been hung in an art installation in our Community Gallery on the 3rd floor of our building. Afterward, these pages have been gathered into a portfolio and archived alongside more than a decade of cohorts who have participated in this assignment. We return to these portfolios every year as we are sending our graduating cohort, inviting them to look back at the person they were when they started and to see the host of alumni that surround them as a great cloud of witnesses to the journey we share, past, present, and future. These pages are a cherished part of our community’s story.

How to complete the Who Am I? assignment:

Using any media of your choice, answer the question: Who are you?

You may be as creative as you’d like: collage, paint, sketch, color, write a poem, a song, a story, include your picture or a picture of those people, places, or things you love…or don’t. In the case of a song or poem you are free to make an audio recording of yourself but please also prepare an image that connects to it, whether it is the lyrics or some other visual representation of you.

Next week in your second lesson on Frameworks and Intersections, you will be prompted to turn in this assignment. You will be able to begin taking in and interacting with each other’s work through that lesson. We will also print and hang the visual pieces in the third-floor gallery for you to see and interact with during the on campus portion of your orientation. And afterward, we will gather and keep these pieces in the portfolio archives alongside past cohorts.

If you have questions about this assignment, feel free to email me!

For a bit of inspiration, we’ve included a smattering of Who Am I? pages from past cohorts below.

collage woman in forest with birds and lanternwatercolor landscape