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Mount St. Mary's orientation gets smaller and more socially distant

The Frederick News Post

July 20, 2020


Summer orientation for incoming Mount St. Mary’s University students looked quite different this year — with temperature checks and health questionnaires, social distancing restrictions and face coverings, and tissues and hand sanitizer bottles given out as souvenirs.

It’s orientation in the midst of a global pandemic, but that didn’t prevent staff and student orientation leaders of the Mount from making sure every student was comfortable and excited to come to campus.

“I’ve gotten a multitude of comments saying how safe they feel here and they feel they’re in good hands because we are constantly reminding please social distance, please wear your mask,” said Jackie Candito, a rising sophomore and student orientation leader.

This year’s incoming Class of 2024 is the largest in the university’s history with more than 600 students, according to Donna Klinger, director of public relations and communications for the Mount.

It is also the most diverse. Forty-two percent of incoming students identify as people of color and 30 percent speak more than one language. The new students hail from 28 states and 10 countries.

In years past, the Mount has held an orientation for new students over the course of three days. Approximately 200 students would flock to campus each day and spend hours walking around, participating in activities, and getting to know their peers and the faculty.

This year, to comply with health restrictions, orientation has been cut down to groups of 20 students in each session — morning and afternoon — over the course of 10 days.

“It used to be kind of a big event with a lot of energy and now it’s more of an intimate feel with the smaller groups,” Mallory Wishard, assistant dean of Student Life and Director of New Student Programming, said.

The students are allowed to bring one guest and they spend a few hours hearing from administrators, touring residence halls, and getting their questions answered. Even though orientation looks much different this year, Candito thinks the smaller group settings have actually been beneficial to incoming students.

“I think it enables them to use their voice a little more, it’s less intimidating...there are just as many of us but less students so everyone has the opportunity to get their questions answered,” she said.

Incoming freshman Annie Brennan said she was nervous about coming to campus before orientation, but getting her questions answered has made her feel less stressed.

“Now that I’ve met more people and seen that everyone is in the same boat, I’m not as nervous, just excited and ready to move in,” Brennan said.

Wishard said the university felt it was important to allow students to come experience campus in person at least once before starting their new journey.