New pre-orientation programs offer students broader perspectives
The two new programs, Leading Your Way and World of Politics, offered several dozen incoming students an opportunity to learn from their peers about how their individual experiences and viewpoints fit into the larger context of gender imbalance and political conversation.
Leading Your Way is run through the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership as an extension of the office’s new women’s leadership experience focus, while World of Politics was a student-inspired collaboration between the Washington University Political Review and Model United Nations.
“People seem to be thinking bigger…[and] seeing new perspectives,” said junior Nick Hinsch, one of two students who conceived of the program last fall.
Hinsch, a member in both participating student groups, had hoped to use the program as a tool to help students make the adjustment to university-level political dialogue, much of which involved expanding their scopes of vision.
“They’re illuminated by the idea that politics in each region isn’t the same; there are different forces at work in different areas,” Hinsch said.
Freshman Andrew Yu said he has found the program not only informative, but also thought provoking.
“Political thinking… it’s something that we do every day—it’s critical thinking, pretty much. And this is what this pre-o definitely gets us to do, is critical thinking,” Yu said.
Leading Your Way also capitalized on participants’ international perspectives to broaden group discussions.
Lucy Morlan, a coordinator of student involvement and leadership for Greek Life who helped organize the program, said program coordinators hadn’t known what level of student diversity they would encounter.
“Part of it was not knowing who was going to be in the program until it started. We realized, ‘OK, we have half these women are international students, we need to make sure that we’re also addressing their needs with it. And so it’s kind of been a balancing act of how do we make sure and bring that perspective in,” Morlan said.
“We have some counselors that have international experience, so they can speak to it a little bit. And I think that’s helped out a lot,” Morlan added.
Outside of general discussions among freshmen, the program’s organizers and six undergraduate counselors met with a female judge at the local courthouse, explored the city and took a trip to the history museum to see an exhibit on the evolution of women’s undergarments.
Morlan explained that the exhibit shows how women have literally become less constrained since the Victorian era, for example. But she noted that as far as women have come, it’s important for participants to realize how much more there is to be done in advancing women’s rights.
“Things are obviously better than they were ten years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago. But it’s probably still not where, as women, we would like it to be. And I think sometimes it can be a little deceiving for people to come in on colleges or wherever it may be and think, ‘OK, those struggles don’t exist anymore. We have reached that equal landing with men,’” Morlan said.
With a total of 17 programs this year, the First Year Center offered more pre-orientation options than in any year previously. Last year, the University offered 16 programs—all of which returned, with the exception of Hatchet yearbook.
“We now have an advisory council made up of mostly advisers of the groups to kind of take a look and see where pre-o is heading and having some serious conversations with Residential Life,” director of First Year Center programs, Danielle Bristow, said. “We’re going to look and see what changes we can make to pre-o—where can we grow it, how can we grow it, and what ResLife can handle at that time because RA’s are still in training.”
The First Year Center will only approve new pre-orientation programs after the groups interested fill out extensive paperwork detailing their objectives and plans.
Bristow said it is also particularly important for a new program to offer something unique. She noted that with the presidential election looming, this was the perfect year to start World of Politics, and while an existing program, Leading WashU Style, does offer leadership training, Leading Your Way focuses particularly on cultivating female leaders.
Bristow said she tries to be upfront with groups about whether her committee will approve their pre-orientation activities so they won’t go through the entire process only to be rejected.
“I think there are a lot of student groups who are starting to see the value of pre-o because it’s a natural recruitment piece for them, but just because you want to recruit people to your program doesn’t mean that it would make a good pre-o,” Bristow said.