Small army of faculty, staff guide Alive! 2010

Photos by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services, and Tim Marsh, WSU Today.  Music: “The Monkey King,” played by WSU Jazz Big Band and written by Patrick Sheng.
Article by Robert Frank, WSU Today
PULLMAN – Fall semester incoming students are gearing up for a successful transition via the WSU’s 21st annual Alive! orientation program.
During June and July, about 3,300 students and their parents will attend one of 10 two- or three-day long Alive! programs. 
The required program includes a wide range of activities designed to acquaint students with academic policies, programs and expectations, as well as campus resources and extracurricular opportunities. Participant activities include:
  • Meeting with faculty, advisors and other campus leaders
  • Creating a course schedule and registering for fall classes
  • Considering career and major opportunities in more than 200 fields of study
  • Touring and getting acquainted with campus
  • Getting an inside look at how the university works
  • Learning about leadership and involvement opportunities
  • Meeting other freshman students


Small army required
As you might imagine, it takes a small army of people to make the Alive! program successful.
“This is a universitywide effort,” said Terese King, director of the WSU University College’s New Student Programs unit, which produces Alive! At least 550 faculty and staff are involved throughout the summer, representing all 12 colleges. And a broad spectrum of departments and offices participate in the academic fair.
One participant is
Karen Weathermon, director of Learning Communities, another University College unit. “Alive! is really important,” said Weathermon. “It’s the one thing the whole freshman class participates in. So, it’s our best shot trying to communicate what WSU is about academically.
“Statistically 2/3 of all students will change their majors at least once while they are here. Alive! introduces them to the resources they have at their disposal and helps them to think about their academic options, and points them to resources including advisors, online sites, print materials, faculty and more.”
John McNamara, professor of animal sciences and a member of the WSU Teaching Academy, agrees. “I think it is critically important that faculty — academic and research — get to know students as they are, from start to finish. Alive! allows faculty to talk with young adults walking onto the WSU campus for the first time. Some are full of hopes and dreams, others scared, unsure, confident or hopeful. It is a both a humbling event and a privilege.
“We get to help them get started. We get to talk them through the confusion, to help them understand that a bad math placement won’t ruin their lives.”
The program is two days long for transfer students and three days long for new freshmen.
Academic focus
“Initially people think of college orientations as tours and singing the fight song. But that’s not really our focus,” said King. “Alive! is much more of an academic orientation to the institution.”
“Alive! introduces students to resources; establishes academic expectations and policies; sets a tone for what’s expected in the classroom and in their intended major; reviews academic integrity, health and wellness, study abroad, multicultural and disability centers, the writing program, the Cougar Card program, and the WSU community. Our goal is to make sure they are ready to move in and go in the fall.”
In addition, students take care of their financial business, purchase their books, get their Cougar Card, meet with academic advisors, and register for classes, set up their e-mail account and WSU Alert, become acquainted with the WSU online system and MyWSU, review their living options in the dormitories and Greek community, consider jobs on campus, and get an overview of ASWSU and other extracurricular organizations.
“It’s the only way to ensure that students and parents hear a uniform message on key issues, like student conduct and integrity, academic expectations, safety, and other major topics,” said King.
“We provide the same programs for parents, so they are aware and can be big influencers for their students,” said King.
WSU also offers bilingual sessions in Spanish. Last year had 230 parents and 90 students in the bilingual program. This year 300 parents and 100 students are anticipated.
Retention increased
When WSU’s student orientation program began in 1989, it was more social than academic. “Now the scale has tipped strongly to academic orientation,” said King.
Nationally and at WSU, students who attend orientation programs are retained at significantly higher rates. Tenth-day enrollment figures show about a 15 percent increase in retention. As a result, WSU made the Alive! program mandatory three years ago, increasing the attendance from 89% to essentially 100%. Since then, retention numbers have increased an additional 4 percent from fall to spring and 2 percent from freshman to sophomore year.
How can you help?
Most of the bases are covered when it comes to conducting official Alive! activities. But, all faculty and staff can play a role in making the Alive! program a success. If you see a tour group on campus or in your work area, you can simply say hello and welcome students to campus and WSU.
If someone looks lost, ask if you can be of help, or guide them to their destination.
“If someone would like to be involved more, just call me,” said King, who can be reached at 335-4242 or
“I love doing Alive!,” said McMcNamara. “I think if more faculty got involved, went through the training, learned more about the university than their own department, let down some of their barriers, accepted matriculating students for who they are that day, and began to show them where they might go; then they as people and as faculty would be stronger, and the university community could only be better off.”

Alive overview

  • See this year’s orientation counselors
  • Orientation dates