Upper Division Orientation welcomes students


Rowan Mally and Ayesha Sen

The annual Upper Division Orientation (UDO) occurred over Zoom on September 4, replacing the three-day Dorr campus experience.

This year, 54 new students and 63 returning students at UDO were divided into 10 groups, Director of Dorr Glenn Sherratt said. Each group was led by a faculty member from Dorr or the Upper Division. Initially, the students met all together and they later moved into breakout rooms within small groups to engage in online problem-solving games and activities.

While sleeping in tents, climbing, eating communal meals together, singing, dancing, and roasting Dorrmores were not a part of the virtual program, the goals of UDO remained the same but were just accomplished in a different way, Sherratt said. “There is a common thread that runs through the orientation at Dorr and this virtual one, and that is that the intent of the program is still to nurture a sense of belonging and community among the students.”

Before the Zoom meeting, incoming student Ashleigh Conner (10) didn’t think she would connect with her peers, she said. “I assumed that the lack of physical interaction would hinder the experience because there is definitely more formality through Zoom, which is not ideal in friendship.”

After the Zoom call, however, Conner said that the program exceeded her expectations. “Even though we weren’t able to go to Dorr, I still had a lot of fun meeting the other students,” she said. “I hope to be able to go to Dorr in the future for the full experience, but the Zoom call was still a lot of fun, and I’m really excited to go to school.”

UDO mentor Walker McCarthy (11) said the move to Zoom changed the experience for both mentors and incoming students. “For me, being up at Dorr is such a fundamental part of the UDO experience,” he said. “Dorr gives us the chance to interact with people from different grades in an informal way that is not always possible at school.”

At a typical UDO, mentor Bailey Hecht (10) said she would enjoy having free time to play games and introduce mentees to other students. “Last year in just three days, I was able to meet basically every new kid in our grade, which I think shows how effective the in-person format is,” she said.

Although mentor Steve Yang (10) was disappointed that he was not able to attend Dorr this year, he believes the benefits of UDO were just as rewarding. Specifically, Yang said that online UDO still allowed mentors to help new students transition to school, as mentors were still able to address the concerns of their mentees. 

McCarthy also remains confident in the program’s effectiveness. “I know that everyone involved with UDO — faculty and mentors — wanted it to be a great experience for new students and I think that came out over Zoom,” he said.  

“I was just happy to get the chance to see people’s faces,” Conner said. “Until I saw them and heard their voices, these (students) that I learned about were in a sense just concepts, not actual people.” 

Because the pandemic has caused greater uncertainty about the academic and social aspects at the school, Hecht reached out to her mentee, Conner, to get her excited for the first day of school. “It is definitely scary starting a new school, especially when you are not starting in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “But both in and out of UDO, mentors will be there for their mentees.”