In a break from tradition, all incoming first years will spend their first night at the College together in Farley Field House. In an email sent to the student body on Wednesday, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced that Pre-Orientation trips will be mandatory for the Class of 2016.
The decision is part of an experimental change to the Bowdoin first year Orientation process. In past years, approximately a quarter of students did not participate in a Pre-O trip.
"Our goal with this initiative is to create a common introduction for all entering students, rather than having participants and non-participants," wrote Foster in an email to the Orient.
There will now be a single arrival day for all first years on August 21. They will embark on their respective trips the next morning.
"For those students who haven't participated, their introduction to the College has also come after the vast majority of their classmates have had meaningful opportunities to connect with one another," wrote Foster. "As a result, some of these students have felt left out or not a part of the class at the outset of their Bowdoin experience."
To accommodate the larger number of participating students, the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) and the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good are collectively adding 10 more trips. Additionally, the Bowdoin Science Experience will continue to invite students to participate in the program before Orientation begins.
"We're looking at adding some new trips that haven't been done before," said Nina Scheepers '14, the Pre-Orientation coordinator. Most of the 10 additional trips, however, will likely be added sections of current trips.
According to Scheepers, the real logistical challenge in expanding the program will be finding enough leaders for trips.
"That's my main focus right now is just leader recruitment," she said. "It's really just a matter of getting people to submit applications and come in to interviews and making sure everyone who we get as leaders are capable of doing the trips that we send them out to do."
Foster and Scheepers both believe that even the least intrepid and outdoorsy students will find a trip that suits them. Scheepers cited the McKeen Center service trips and the Thalheimer Wellness trip as laidback alternatives to outdoor camping endeavors.
"I think that each entering student will be able to identify an experience that is appealing to her or him," said Foster.
Kyle Nowak '15 did not attend on Pre-O this year, and took the time to drive across the country with his father instead.
"It was nice to have extra time to see the area," said Nowak, who does not support the mandate. "Because it's Pre-Orientation, it really should be optional...if it's not, it's really just an extension of Orientation."
Changes to the entire structure of first year Orientation are likely to accompany the new trip policy. The Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs is forming a working group of faculty, staff and students to eradicate how to best improve Orientation.
"The initial focus is on what we have called pre-Orientation trips," said Foster. "But by making adjustments there, we have the opportunity to reexamine the Orientation program and its choreography."
One concern raised about the changed structure of Orientation is the impact it will have on fall athletes. According to football captain Pat Noone '12, in past years coaches have been ambivalent about athletes participating in Pre-O trips right before the start of the season.
"I think that they'll just warn the whole class that its just going to be physically tiring to do the Pre-O trip and then be thrown into football because its so physically demanding," he said.
Noone predicted that once first year athletes catch up on their sleep, it will have little effect on the team.
Bowdoin is not alone in adopting a mandatory Orientation trip policy; Williams, Middlebury and Colby are or will be taking the same approach.
How this will affect first years, of course, remains to be seen.
Scheepers and the BOC hope that having more students participate in Orientation trips will bring in more club members than ever before.
"I personally did the whitewater kayaking Pre-O and now I love whitewater kayaking," Scheepers said. "I got very involved, and I would hope that's the case for more first years."
"This is a 30-year tradition that provides a valuable introduction to the College and the State of Maine," wrote Foster to the student body. "The important result will be that every member of the first year class will now have the opportunity to connect with small peer groups that evolve quickly into the focal point of friendships for many students."