The Big “O” has students screaming

University orientation exercises range from advising to hypnotizing
Nearly 2,300 new ‘Canes went through orientation this past week to get acquainted with life as a UM student.

A student staff of three program coordinators, 12 orientation coordinators and 188 orientation assistants volunteered their time and effort to guide new students.

“Seeing so many eager faces makes my job worthwhile,” said orientation assistant Ciara Mohamed.

This was the first year in many that orientation was coordinated without the guidance of Tricia Shatley, who took on a new position in the Department of Residence Halls.

“Orientation relies heavily upon the student volunteers, and they did a great job,” said Webb Morgan, the new Director of Orientation and Commuter Student Affairs.

International students were the first group to go through orientation, completing a series of workshops that allowed students to learn about practical aspects of life in America such as getting a license, opening up a U.S. bank account and maintaining visa status.

Orientation for all entering and transfer students began this weekend with ‘Cane Kick Off, which gave new students a taste of UM spirit. Throughout the weekend, interested students attended information sessions dealing with academic expectations, student involvement, Miami points of interest, UM history, school spirit and drugs and alcohol. “The information was very useful,” said Ashley Stolba, an incoming freshman from Cape Cod, MA. “It gave me a clear idea of what’s going on at UM.”

Current students, staff and administrators presented on these topics in order to encourage students to excel both in and out of the classroom.

“The sessions motivated me to become involved on campus,” said Nicole Timmons, an incoming freshman, from Miami, FL.

A barbecue sponsored by Greek Life concluded the weekend’s events, followed by an entertaining performance by a hypnotist, sponsored by Hurricane Productions, in which students were willingly hypnotized to do things like believe their names were “Chacha” and to take off their shoes to cool themselves off.

On Monday, students met with their academic deans to learn about expectations and guidelines. Students were then able to pick up their schedules. Incoming transfer students also had the opportunity to attend a panel in which they met with current transfer students.

“Orientation is unique to UM life, so the information is useful not only to incoming freshmen, but also to transfer students,” Martha Carias, program coordinator, said.

For many, the highlight of the day was the President’s Picnic. As an annual tradition, President Shalala opens her home to incoming students during orientation. Food and music, along with the company of other new students, makes for an entertaining afternoon.

Tuesday’s main event was Canefest, in which over 200 of the different registered student organizations had representatives available to answer questions and recruit members. Students were also able to enjoy food, prizes and music, and speak to current UM students and staff. A party at the Rat concluded Tuesday’s events, and allowed students to see that UM has many on-campus entertainment options during the week and on weekends.

“Orientation went smoothly, and I hope that the students have the same positive feeling,” Angela Fletcher, UM staff associate, said. “All of the hard work seemed to be worthwhile in the end.”

“It’s great to get positive feedback and appreciation from the students,” Jason Starr, Program Coordinator, said.

If interested in getting involved on campus, contact Student Activities at 8-6399 or stop by the office at UC 209.

Minal Ahson can be contacted at