First-year students make connections before classes begin

First-Year Experience Get Involved Granville, Columbus & more Orientation Programs Student Life
September 5, 2023

Moving to a new location, meeting more than 600 new classmates, learning a new environment — it’s a lot to take in, especially with just a few days to settle in before classes start.

Something as simple as knowing you’ll meet a friend for lunch on that first day can relieve tension and allow you to focus on the big picture. That’s the aim of Denison’s Pre-Orientation (Pre-O) programs: three-day excursions for first-year students who get to know each other while they explore a variety of themes, including creating art, learning the principles of design thinking, and exploring the great outdoors.

For Nathan Graves, director of orientation and first-year experience, Pre-Os are all about building connections.

“We want students to start from a foundation of trust and belonging,” he says. “We know that comes from a shared experience. Spending time together at an art museum or on a canoe trip gives them shared moments to build connections before they dive into campus life.”

Big Red Connections Pre-O: Building confidence and networks

Ryan Brechbill, director of employer and alumni relations at Denison’s Knowlton Center for Career Exploration, delights in hosting the Big Red Connections Pre-O each year. This August, he and 20 first-year students explored nearby Columbus, attending a Columbus Crew game, playing pickleball, and eating at some great restaurants. They also prepared to meet their new classmates — one of their first steps was to visit Denison Edge, where they learned how to frame their personal story.

Students completed a self-assessment and got some pointers on introducing themselves. “They were genuinely curious and asked great questions,” Brechbill says. “They all developed more confidence to meet others, and they practiced when we met with alumni panels.”

Nana Kwame Amo-Mensah ’27 says he got great tips from those alums.

“They said we should get involved but don’t be overcommitted, and learn how to balance social and academic life,” he says. “And we should go to office hours and have one-on-one conversations with our professors.”

Brechbill also introduced the group to representatives from some of the area’s largest employers. Students learned about future possibilities and talked about ways to connect those to their academic journey.

Computer science major Amaya Joshi ’27, from Pune, India, is entering Denison with an interest in law school. She was concerned her major wouldn’t make her eligible until she talked with attorney Lauren Sabo ’11. “She told me I could keep my major. All I need to do is study for the LSAT and apply — and she even offered to help me,” Joshi says. The two have already set a follow-up meeting.

“The whole experience taught me to get out of my comfort zone,” Joshi says. “It built my confidence so much I feel like I’m ready to meet anyone on campus.”

These experiences are proof that the guiding principle behind Pre-Os — to build connection — is working. “When I came back to campus, I felt that I already knew people,” Amo-Mensah says. “Now we have a group chat and check in on each other.”

Back to top