Armed with the latest clothing, sandals, sunglasses, and backpacks, the class of 2006 took over the dorms, kissed their parents goodbye, and were treated to a really exciting fall orientation program called, “All Roads Lead to U!”
Incoming freshmen along with transfer students went through the program with the guidance of more than 150 student volunteers.
The goal: to introduce new students to opportunities at UM, give them a chance to meet new friends, and help get their year started off right.
Almost everyone showed up for entertainment and a chance to socialize at the program’s biggest events like the Cane Kick Off, the Greek Life Barbeque, and a picnic at President Donna Shalala’s house.
Everything went smoothly and students got to learn about the benefits of campus involvement, according to orientation coordinator Javier Del Rio.
“I’ve been getting compliments from parents and students about how well things have been running.” Del Rio said.
If you were around the campus green on Saturday and saw a couple thousand people singing a strange song, popping balloons, and doing the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Time Warp, then you were witness to a series of icebreakers led by a motivational speaker during the Cane Kick Off.
Incoming students were assigned to one of ninety groups with a volunteer orientation assistant. The small groups gave students the opportunity to make new friends.
Orientation coordinator Gina Yacone was busy making sure that students knew exactly what they were supposed to do.
“When they first get here they’re a little shy and don’t know exactly what to expect. By the end of orientation they’re excited,” Yacone said.
From Sunday morning until the afternoon, incoming students went through several interest sessions.
One of the most popular ones, “We all Bleed Orange and Green,” was created to teach UM traditions— like why we’re called the ‘Canes and what our colors signify.
“That was my favorite; it was a lot of fun,” said Lesley Fisher, a freshman from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
Later that evening, Greek organizations sponsored a barbeque on the UC Green. The barbeque included music from WVUM-FM and a hysterical performance by a hypnotist.
More than 2,000 students spent a few hours mingling on the lawn obtaining information about joining fraternities and sororities while eating free hotdogs and hamburgers served by organization members.
“We’re trying to expose the new students to Greek life and help them meet new people,” said sophomore David Bradbury from Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Once it started getting dark, nationally recognized hypnotist Thomas Bresadola from New York took the stage.
At first students didn’t know what to expect and some in the back of the crowd could be heard socializing. That changed quickly; fifteen minutes into the show you could hear a pin drop. The entire audience was mesmerized – completely silent – watching twenty of their fellow classmates plunge into a deep hypnotic state.
The audience broke out into laughter when one student was made to believe his shoe was on fire and another was convinced his name was Tinkerbell.
Bresadola hypnotized freshman Chris Zavatsky, making him dance on command for thirty minutes after the show if anyone asked him to.
“I am the king of Salsa,” said Zavatsky, who was dancing in the middle of a small crowd that formed a circle around him while he was slowly coming out of a hypnotic state.
Bresadola talked to intrigued students for awhile after the show. “You’ve got a great school here and it’s an excellent atmosphere to study, you’re all really lucky,” he said.
On Monday more than 1,500 students gathered on President Shalala’s lawn for a picnic that included free food, games, and music.
“This is really personal and shows that she cares,” said freshman Erin Farmer from New Jersey.
Students were transported in six large tour busses from the campus to Shalala’s Coral Gables home. Once students arrived, President Shalala was waiting in her driveway to welcome each student individually.
Continuing down her driveway towards the back yard, UM Cheerleaders and the color guard could be heard chanting, “There’s some ‘Canes over here!”
In her back yard, students were delighted to find a variety of food including philly cheese steaks, cheese fries, Tex Mex, beans and rice, jambalaya, and ice cream for dessert. After eating, some students played volleyball, football, or soccer on the lawn, while others danced to the music of Miami band Libido.
Lead singer Cristina Morris captured everyone’s attention and got people to dance while she sang popular R&B songs.
“It’s great to play for the new students, they’re so appreciative,” Morris said.
Freshman George Lewis from Andover, Massachusetts shocked the crowd when he stripped down to his boxer shorts and dove in the President’s pool.
“I had a blast, Orientation was great and this party is rocking,” Lewis said,