Photo by Jonah Rosenberg

First-year orientation, June 2023: In review

…First-years checked in and got their ID photo taken outside the HUB, it was a privilege to work at check-in and see the sheer amount of mini-mullets now commemorated forever (or at least the next 4 years) on PSU IDs.

Liv Pierog




For an incoming first-year, June orientation lasts about 24 hours from check-in at 1 pm, to ID pickup, and key drop off the following afternoon. Proud scholars from the incoming class of 2027 stayed in the renowned Geneva Smith and Grafton Halls for one night on the Plymouth State campus, their allowed parent or one guest spent the night in Merrill Place. First-years checked in and got their ID photo taken outside the HUB, it was a privilege to work at check-in and see the sheer amount of mini-mullets now commemorated forever (or at least the next 4 years) on PSU IDs. Following their check-in, orientees and their guests got a sparkling commencement talk from none other than Director of Community Impact & Student Life, Jess Dutille, and Director of the PSU New Student Experience, Kyle Hastbacka – Yeah Kyle!, students and guests were split up, and first-years met their groups and orientation leaders (OL’s).

Day one included two sessions, the first being a Residential Life floor meeting with Director, Chuck Crawford and other ResLife staff. This brief talk proved to be a tough one for those in Orientation Session C fighting the joneses, resulting in a stern change of mood in the ResLife educational session when Hastbacka had to remind students that the use of controlled substances, including but not limited to cannabis, is PROHIBITED from all of campus, the Residential Halls, and Merrill Place Conference Center where the session was being held. Students in the preceding and following sessions seemed to make it through their floor meeting and- after their first dining experience at Prospect Dining Hall for dinner- the Student Life meeting later in the evening just fine.

Photo by Jonah Rosenberg

Session A and B orientees got to experience the enigma that is Salish The Hypnotist for their evening entertainment. There is continuing discourse on why some people feel the need to fake being hypnotized up on stage , that is neither here nor there. Session C and D enjoyed a quirky magic show for their evening entertainment. Throughout all June sessions, orientees had optional evening programming in Geneva Smith Hall from around 10 pm to midnight, however many orientees were on a roll meeting new people, old friends, and even roommates in at least one case, until the early hours of the morning. 

Whether orientees spent the night at evening programming, up late with Orientation leaders playing cards, or in their 24hr dorm with their randomly assigned roommates being annoyed by the noise of rowdy people on their floor, the class of 2027 definitely got a taste of the unforgettable experience of living in the First-year ResHalls at PSU. In the morning, orientees met bright and early at 8 am with their Orientation Leaders and groups one last time before they left campus until the upcoming fall semester. Orientation Leaders used this time to level with orientees and get their final thoughts out. We talked in orientation groups and students asked questions about being safe and social in a community like ours, most importantly about boundaries and creating a healthy school-work-social life balance; a craft most of us upperclassmen are still perfecting after a year (or four) under our belt. 

After one last educational session with the Registrar’s Office students broke off into their majors to meet with their advisors or department heads and confirm their course registration. Common concerns from first-years in the registration process came from IT issues that need ironing out, a simplified or streamlined wifi/USNH/Microsoft/MyPlymouth/Banner login is quite necessary it seems, confusion came from the appearance of two separate Outlook Email addresses assigned to students, which many first-years misunderstood to be their login. The IT department was reliable and on-call for all of June orientation, hooking students up with loaner laptops and setting up a camp in Boyd Learning Commons for students who needed help during registration and major meetings.

After a nice brunch at Prospect, students could peruse a job fair, handing out some of the best recruitment swag I have ever seen, including tables from various on-campus work opportunities like ResLife & Dining, PSU Recreation, and the Museum of the White Mountains, as well as great off-campus opportunities from Waterville Valley, Loon & Cannon Mountain, and more. And in the last hour or so of their stay on campus, students played games with OL’s for Plymouth State Bucket hats and prizes, took a tour through campus, attended a Diversity Scholars session at the IDEA Center with Director, Alberto Ramos, or chose to listen and ask questions at an Orientation Leader Panel. 

At around 1 pm on day two, orientees could pick up their student ID and head home, many asked me as I was handing them out if they could retake their photo. Nope! Get ready to love that photo until you become an alumni first-years! And just like that, orientation is over, the class of 2027 packed up, said catch you later to the new friends they’d met, and waved goodbye to their OL’s until move-in and Panther Days in August!

As an Orientation Leader, June Orientation lasts about 2 weeks straight from the morning of the first summer training, to the final debrief after Session D has been sent home and cleaned up. OLs lived in either Geneva Smith or Grafton Hall with their orientees over the four sessions, this was a little extra fun for me, having transferred into Plymouth my Sophomore year I never actually lived in a first-year ResHall. My time in Grafton 418, a single room I initially compared to a holding cell, became a very nice and positive space by the end of my two-week stay. Similar to the experience of most, moving apprehensively into their own first-year room, and coming around to it after establishing it as their place on campus, and collecting memories from their time spent living there.

To express the Orientation Leader experience of the June 2023 Orientation, you need the context of what a crazy good team we had this year. Hastbacka put together a team of roughly 30 staff between Orientation Leaders, coordinators, and assistants throughout the past year. Being one of many new hires myself, we were introduced to each other at two trainings during the Spring semester, but we became quite close, quite fast after arriving on campus in June for training and orientation. Summer Training consisted of about 4 days of formal training and presentations, hours upon hours of team-building exercises and games, practice scenarios, and plenty of free time for us to bond on the campus we already know and love. On our days off and in our free time, Orientation Leaders rented gear from CampusRec at Allwell to paddleboard and tube the Pemi river, played about every card and get-to-know-you game in the book, exchanged advice for orientees, worked on group art projects and clipboard decorating contests, sang karaoke at The Grotto, and even won some priceless prizes for our Hastbacka on a rainy day at Funspot.

The hours were somewhat long and grueling but being on the clock until midnight or 1 am with the class of 2027 hardly felt like working some nights. The incoming class of first-years kept the energy for orientation, I only hope they bring their bubbly and new personalities to campus with them in the fall!

Photo by Jonah Rosenberg

Meeting this new class of incoming Panthers has led me to consider what it means to me, and to all of us upperclassmen, to be a Plymouth State Panther. What does it take to make it through the tough times and decisions every college student faces, especially at PSU? It truly does take a balance. Friends and community are important, but your strongest tool is your confidence and comfortability in yourself and in being alone. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there, but stick to your boundaries and evaluate healthy and unhealthy risks. Pour yourself into your school work and block out the noise, but don’t isolate yourself and run into burnout right off the bat. It’s a give and a take, this balance looks different for everybody, and no one manages it perfectly. Find what works for you. 

Ultimately, Plymouth State Class of 2027, I’m not worried about you. The balance will find you, your people will find you, your path is in front of you, and you’re already walking it. And like so many of you were asking about this June Orientation, don’t worry about “where the party’s at” kid, the party will find you, welcome to Plymouth.

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