Student orientation launches with a renewed focus

June 5, 2012

Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) officially launched at Union South on May 31, promising an experience that will be slightly different for the 2012 incoming new transfer and freshmen students.

But what remains the same is that the Center for the First-Year Experience (CFYE), along with loyal campus partners, will continue to welcome 6,000 freshmen, 1,200 transfer students, and more than 8,000 parents and guests to UW–Madison this summer.

Photo: SOAR

College of Letters and Science advisor Jacqui Guthrie, left, works with incoming first-year undergraduate Samantha Scheidt to register for Scheidt’s classes during a Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) session at Union South last year.

Photo: Jeff Miller

And the ultimate goal is also the same: Incoming freshmen and transfer students will meet with an advisor and leave SOAR with their questions answered, a full schedule, an understanding of campus resources, and an introduction to the campus culture and the Wisconsin Experience.

The changes come after more than two years of review and planning, and hundreds of staff, faculty, and student feedback, a new SOAR model is in place for the 2012 season.

Led by CFYE and loyal campus partners, the new format places a stronger emphasis on the academic advising process for students, while providing parents and families with intentional strategies and messages to connect with and appropriately support their student’s transition to college.

“Many SOAR program changes work toward the goal of helping students get the best academic start to their UW–Madison career,” explains Carren Martin, CFYE co-director. “We have restructured the advising experience so that students have more time for reflection between the exploration and enrollment stages of course selection. We’ve also revised the way we talk about experiences outside the classroom and emphasize how all the decisions a student makes impact their academic success at UW–Madison.”

The new SOAR model allows for more space and time for students to deliberately reflect on their goals and course selection in order to relieve some anxiety around the enrollment process. Also, new advising support tools and materials are available to advisors and will help students understand the process and the campus resources available to them.

“SOAR is the campus’ largest and most comprehensive advising program. Every new student meets with an advisor at SOAR,” explains Wren Singer, UW–Madison’s director of Undergraduate Advising.

Singer adds: “Students meet individually and in small groups with staff, faculty, and peer advisors from every school and college, multiple academic departments, and the Cross-College Advising Service. In addition, students have access to specialists from math, chemistry, foreign language, pre-health, first-year interest groups, Institute for Biology Education, and more.”

It’s important to note that while the SOAR model changed for both the freshmen and transfer student sessions, the modifications to these individual programs were slightly different.

“Given that transfer students come to UW–Madison with a wide range of educational backgrounds, we have designed transfer SOAR sessions to be more responsive to their individual needs,” explains Annette McDaniel, director of the Transfer Transition Program. “In addition to comprehensive group advising, transfer students will have the opportunity to meet individually with academic advisors at SOAR and will conclude their day by meeting one-on-one with staff from the Transfer Transition Program.”

The new SOAR model is now more intentional with messaging to parents and guests, encouraging them to start a conversation early with their student about challenging topics such as alcohol, finances, and studying, and for parents and students to determine expectations of one another before fall.

The Parent Program teamed with CFYE to develop talking points and strategies, to be delivered during the parent SOAR sessions, which will promote open communication between students and their parent/guests.

“We have restructured the advising experience so that students have more time for reflection between the exploration and enrollment stages of course selection. We’ve also revised the way we talk about experiences outside the classroom and emphasize how all the decisions a student makes impact their academic success at UW–Madison.”

Carren Martin

Parents and guests are encouraged to see themselves as coaches rather than problem-solvers and to address tough issues early in their student’s college career.

“We are excited to talk to parents and families at SOAR this summer,” says Patti Lux-Weber Parent Program coordinator at UW–Madison. “We think this new approach to sharing information will leave guests with the right balance of information and understanding their new role as coach and mentor. We see that parents are already active in their student’s education and want to support their student’s success.”

For the first time, First Wave students will participate and be visible at SOAR. The First Wave Spoken Word and Hip Hop Learning Community is a multicultural artistic program for incoming students. The group will connect with incoming student peers and continue the SOAR theme of focusing on how personal decisions outside the classroom can impact academic success.

The program begins and ends at Union South. As participants make their way around campus, the community is encouraged to direct SOAR attendees to Union South for questions and guidance.

Current students, faculty, and staff are also asked to be patient and assist program participants whenever possible during their visit to campus.

The SOAR office in the Alumni Room located at Union South. It will be staffed until Aug. 30, Sundays from 1-4 p.m. and Mondays-Fridays from 7:45 a.m.-6 p.m. The regular office at 21 North Park St. will not have reception desk staffing.

To learn more about SOAR and answer frequently asked questions, click here.

Questions about getting around campus during SOAR can be answered at (608) 262-4707 or by clicking here.