Student-Led Orientation Program Debuts for Class of 2025

October 7, 2021

This year, incoming Oliners were offered a brand-new program to help them adjust to college life: Pre-Orientation Summer Experience, or POSE, which was designed and delivered by current students. 

POSE’s intent is to help new students bridge the gap between high school and college, both academically—by brushing up on their calculus and physics skills—and socially—by introducing them to Olin-specific fundamentals, such as reflective thinking, deep listening, and share-outs.

Planning for POSE began at the very beginning of the summer when the student team—comprising Camille Girard ’21, Grant Goodall ’24, Milo Wiston ’22, Lukas Milroy ’23, and Mason Grabowski ‘22—began working with a team of faculty and staff to align goals and create a curriculum.

“The idea for a program like this has been circulating around Olin for a while,” said Grabowski. “We wanted to implement a way to catch some students up to the level of calculus and physics needed for first-year classes here, and because COVID really set back academics for a lot of students, we decided that now was the time to pull the trigger.”

Faculty and staff collaborators for POSE—Emily Roper-Doten, Seth Hodge, Zhenya Zastavker, Alison Wood, Jeff Dusek, Emily Tow, and Alisha Sarang-Sieminski—helped answer the student teams’ questions and advise them on scheduling and curriculum, but POSE very much remains a student-led initiative.

“At Olin, we’ve been having conversations about different types of pre-orientation programs and their merits and challenges for a while,” said Sarang-Sieminski, dean of the college and professor of engineering. “All of our students take more or less a single stream of classes for about a year, year-and-a-half—integrated math and science, as well as arts and humanities—so the academic and experiential differences they have before arriving to Olin can make a difference. Especially this year, with the disparate effects of remote learning: Some of our students have been taking in-person classes throughout the entire pandemic, and some hadn’t been in a physical classroom since March 2020.”

Offered to all incoming students as an optional program, about 80 percent of the Class of 2025 signed up to participate in POSE, with about 80 percent of that pool completing almost all of the sessions.

POSE ran for five weeks, encompassing two virtual sessions each week with specific curricular and developmental goals. Students were also given the option of completing small amounts of outside work with a resource list, as well as opportunities for reflection and feedback.

Students form a half circle on the Great Lawn, under a blue sky, during Orientation 2021.

Olin College Orientation 2021 activities on the Great Lawn.

“We got lots of great feedback from students as we went through the program—for example, they really appreciated being able to work on physics and calculus problems in breakout groups together,” said Grabowski. “Everyone had different approaches, and students were able to build some confidence and self-efficacy in those areas.”

Moving forward, the team looks forward to gathering additional feedback from the first-year course faculty to see how the incoming class’s academic skills and adjustment to college-level courses is going.

“We want to make sure we balance our pre-orientation programming with the knowledge that if you got into Olin, you belong here,” said Sarang-Sieminski. “We’re not seeking to teach people new components, but to give them an opportunity to reinforce what they already know and help them transition to Olin’s very hands-on, project-based curriculum.”

All but one member of the POSE student team also assisted with Orientation this year, so they were able to continue their mentorship roles and connect with students on campus.

“I didn’t realize how much being a part of this program would affect the way incoming students interact with me,” said Milroy. “Being a part of POSE has solidified for me that I like being in a teaching and guiding position; I’m taking a course in education design this semester because I learned how much I enjoy being in this space.”