University Welcomes the Class of 2026

Connor Bennett, Contributing Writer

The University’s first-year orientation experience is a long-standing university tradition that many staff members and students take pride in. This year’s orientation for the class of 2026 took place between Aug. 17 and 21. Recognizing the importance of becoming adjusted to college life and campus, the staff of Orientation Assistants (OAs), Leaders (OLs) and Coordinators (OCs) spent hours in preparation for the event to run smoothly. I was an OA and could not be more grateful to have had the opportunity. 

Orientation was action packed with little downtime and lots of fun. Kick-off to the five days of orientation was move-in led by the Orientation staff and the football team who helped carry bags, fridges, bedding, rugs and all else into the first year dorms. Athletes working hand in hand with the Orientation Staff exemplified the strong unity amongst the campus community. The day continued with planned events for both new students and their parents to attend. At night the students engaged in a Just-Touched Down ceremony. Just-Touched Down was an icebreaker game that had the first-year students participating in fun activities to get to know each other and other halls. The stadium was full of energy during the Rock Paper Scissors tournament between all students.

With the lively night having been led by Orientation Leader, Jake De Luca ’24, he described it as his favorite event: “My favorite moment during Orientation was definitely getting to MC our newest event, Just Touched Down, with fellow OLs Tiffany Jones ’24 and Cams Moore ’24. Plus, the energy was really high and the glow stick show was a snapshot moment I won’t forget. Being on stage interacting with the Class of 2026 and seeing them bonding with one another in Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium really made the experience feel all worth it.”

The Just-Touched Down ceremony was only the first of major events planned by the coordination team. Some other major events that occurred during Orientation include VIP Night at the bookstore, Bingo, the Street Festival, Hall Olympics and so much more.

There was not a day when first-year students did not have numerous activities to meet their new classmates. The Orientation Coordinator Taylor Armstrong ’23 and Assistant Orientation Coordinator Evan Klimas ’24 were the heart and soul of the program. Both spent their summers on campus to ensure the first-year students had the best time.

While talking to Armstrong about what made her become an Orientation Coordinator she said, “Following my role as an OA during 2020’s COVID Orientation, I knew that my involvement with the program was not over. I had originally applied to be an OA in hopes of creating a more accepting and welcoming campus for those often overlooked by Bucknell but did not have the opportunity to do so to my satisfaction. Wanting to leave a lasting positive impact on new students, I decided to apply for the OC position!.” Not only does Armstrong show how much students care for one another but also how being a part of the Orientation Staff is a unique and rewarding experience as well.

First-year students also had the opportunity to listen to great speakers and have their own discussions about real problems on campus and colleges around the country. Eboné Bell, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Speaker explained to the first-years the importance of an inclusive environment. All students come from a multitude of backgrounds and it is important for people to accept and embrace each other’s differences.

Mike Domitrz, the founder of the Center of Respect and the author of  “Can I Kiss You?,” also gave an important talk regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Domitrz combined his great speaking ability with humor to get the audience active and engaged with a serious topic. The Orientation Staff was wise in choosing speakers that kept the students engaged during very serious topics about College life. 

The combination of very fun activities with serious topics and discussions allowed the first-years to gain the skills they needed to be successful in college. First-year student Jack Barnett-Mould, was happy to talk about the program and said, “Orientation was a good way to meet your hall and start making friends on campus.” and that the orientation staff, “… helped answer any questions I had and gave their specific experiences with Bucknell which was really helpful.” Jack is just one of the many first-year students who felt that Orientation had a positive impact on them. 

The Convocation Lighting Ceremony was the final event of First Year Orientation. The unique experience allows for the First Years to light a candle with their class and receive speeches from faculty on campus and President Bravman. The significance of this ceremony comes into play in four years when a very similar event occurs right before their graduation. The event comes full circle and is a great way for the students to cap off Orientation. 

Getting to be a part of the Orientation staff and become close with such a great group of people is an experience I will never forget. I would highly recommend applying for the position to any student. Running orientation was only half of the fun; training and getting to know people on campus I normally would not was very special and something I’m very thankful for. Applications to become an Orientation Assistant open in early March. If you have any questions you can reach out to future Orientation Coordinator Evan Kilmas.

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