For more than 60 years, spring quarter summer orientation training has attracted hundreds of continuing Cal Poly students, eager to give incoming freshmen the same fun-filled week they experienced as a new Mustang. The quarter-long weekly training prepares students who are interested in taking on a leadership role for SLO Days or Week of Welcome (WOW). However, this year’s trainings, like those of many other campus affiliated programs, will occur entirely online. 

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey, the first virtual meeting took place April 14, attracting 980 students hoping to be a part of summer orientation 2020. The virtual meetings will continue to take place Tuesday evenings this quarter as they have in the past, and some of the bigger trainings will be held in the fall, according to Humphrey.   

“Our hope is to bring our WOW leaders back a few days earlier than planned to save some of the [trainings] that are better done in person,” said Humphrey. “All of that is of course contingent on the health conditions at that time in September.” 

Until then, the New Student and Transition Programs department is planning to utilize multiple different virtual platforms including Zoom and Canvas to conduct the training, according to Bri Pechacek, the department’s professional staff coordinator. Training, which may be completed individually, will be available on Canvas while collaborative activities and meetings will be conducted on Zoom, Pechacek said. 

“We are actually approved to have an official spring training Canvas course, so we have all of our leaders-in-training enrolled in that course and that’s where we will be releasing all of our information and training content in weekly modules,” Pechacek said. Students will have a week to complete the training modules and may do so on their own time. 

Just as has been the case in previous years, students will be broken up into facilitator groups, each one containing about 30 leaders-in-training. These groups will meet via Zoom weekly on Tuesday evenings where students will have the chance to discuss the training content on Canvas and engage with each other in training activities.  

The department also plans to take advantage of Zoom’s many features, including breakout sessions, so students may collaborate with each other and participate in group activities as they would have in in-person training.

Lastly, specific workshops for summer orientation will also be held on Zoom using a “webinar-type feature,” Pechacek said. 

Biology freshman Julianna Reed is one of the many continuing students participating in this year’s training. 

“After I did WOW myself, I thought it would be fun to be a WOW leader,” said Reed, who attended an informational meeting on campus before it was announced that the training would take place virtually. 

“It’s been pretty smooth so far and pretty organized, which was surprising for me because I thought it was going to be kind of rough because [the staff members] weren’t expecting to have to switch to online,” Reed said. “But so far, it’s been good.”

Though the future of COVID-19’s impact on Cal Poly’s campus environment remains uncertain, Pechacek said that orientation staff are currently operating under the presumption and strong hope that WOW will be held in person. Pechacek and other staff have been closely following updates from health officials, and the department has started to discuss contingency plans to prepare for the potential that fall quarter will be conducted online. 

Humphrey said the training’s new online platform should not discourage students from becoming a summer orientation leader.

“Now more than ever, we need our continuing students to step up and be WOW leaders so that that experience and the power of WOW comes through super strong when we’re back,” Humphrey said.

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