Hampshire's alternative approach to Orientation recognized by global media outlet The Guardian
Some 400 members of Hampshire’s 47th entering class started college with an immersive, four-day orientation the first week in September, and participated in a range of activities designed and hosted by Orientation student leaders. Hampshire’s practice of inviting students to co-lead orientation programming attracted the attention of one of the largest global media outlets, the Guardian.
Just as Hampshire's experiential education calls for students to design their own concentration, the College welcomes student Orientation leaders to create and produce custom programming for the newest incoming class. The result this year was a highly personal, student-centered event that encouraged participation in an eclectic range of activities and workshops, such as:
President Jonathan Lash thanked the many staff members and students who produced Orientation, and encouraged the newcomers to be the owners and operators of their education. “Hampshire is a place designed for active users,” he said. “A central part of our education is student involvement in the community, which takes many forms. Students serve as members of the College’s board and, along with faculty, as members of our five schools. They even serve on our budget and priority committee and on the committee on faculty appointments and promotions.”
President Lash added that he’s not aware of another college that includes students in basic governance to this degree.
Director of New Student Programs Jessica Ortiz, who oversees Orientation, says new students, in groups, participate in the weekend’s major events with their professor from a first-semester tutorial, so the friends they make during this four-day period will be in class together all fall. This professor also serves as the first-year adviser for that group. Examples of the 29 distinctly Hampshire seminar courses for new students and the professors teaching them this semester are:
Because social justice is central to Hampshire’s mission, Orientation introduces students to complex issues of power, privilege, oppression, identity, and racism, sexism, and many other -isms. Discussions of identity encompass the myriad ways in which people may identify, says Ortiz. Among them is the use of pronouns, as Hampshire values individual expression and honors each individual’s wishes for how they want to be acknowledged.
Orientation leaders are also trained not to make assumptions about how students identify, Ortiz says. For example, they do not presume that all students have a traditional concept of home.
“We introduce new students to foundational language around power, privilege, and oppression,” she says. “It’s part of our institutional values for students to critically engage in these discussions. We want students to feel empowered.”
Examples of how these topics were represented:
Hampshire also introduced first-years to the College’s student services, resources, and norms for community living in coordination with Residence Life and Housing; the Office of Student Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities; and other campus offices. “For many students, it’s the first time living away from home. We want to be sure that students understand the responsibilities they have to one another and to the larger campus community,” Ortiz said.
Among the activities for this component of Orientation were discussions of policies, services, and resources related to substance use and sexual misconduct. This year, two Orientation leaders developed and hosted a student conversation about sexual health and safer sex. And again this year, as part of the College’s year-round sexual-assault prevention and education program, Hampshire hosted a theatrical piece written by Hampshire and Five College alums and students entitled Consensual Sensual: Sexual Violence Prevention and Consent.
This piece, also presented at Mount Holyoke College, comprises fictional vignettes across sexual identities and partnerships performed by Five College students in confessional monologues and examples of consent conversations, bystander strategies, and stories of support for both survivors and those who have perpetuated violence. Afterward, Orientation groups met and discussed the topics. Ortiz says that based on feedback in recent years, this performance is consistently one of the most highly regarded Orientation activities.