Orientation reorients under Tim Black

Tim Black took over orientation responsibilities from Steve Dutton who left last spring.

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Orientation leaders smile in anticipation of the Class of 2026’s arrival. Photo courtesy of The Muhlenberg Office of Communications.

This semester, Muhlenberg orientation introduced Tim Black as the new Director of Student Transitions and Family Programs. Previously, Black served as an area director for Housing and Residence Life. Third-year Orientation Leader (OL) Lily Knowles ‘23 says that, “Tim really stepped up to the plate to fill the position… [he] brought amazing energy to the space and gave us the freedom to shape the program.”

Orientation Team Leader (OTL), Shira Holtz ‘24 echoed Knowles’ enthusiasm, saying, “I really liked working with Tim. He knew how to support us as OTLs and fully recognized that this was his first time experiencing Muhlenberg orientation.”

He reminded us that training in particular didn’t have to be the same as last year, but also recognized why we felt it was important to keep a lot of things the same.”

Shira Holtz ’24

This year’s orientation brought about a few notable changes to the program. The biggest alteration was creating a separate program for summer advising so that OLs could focus exclusively on Orientation Weekend. Black also worked with OTLs to create a program for both the week-long orientation training and Orientation Weekend that really highlighted students teaching their peers. For the training, Black split the OTLs into pairs. Each pair was then tasked with creating a presentation about a topic they felt was not traditionally well covered. This allowed for a better orientation because the OTLs were able to use their experience as OLs in prior years to really understand what worked and what needed to be changed. This was different from years prior when guest speakers with no direct involvement in the process would run large portions of the training.

“It was really nice for the OTLs to work together to put together an inclusive and personal program.”

Lily Knowles ’23

The biggest change for orientation was not related to the change in leadership. Due to COVID-19, the last two years of orientation were limited, with orientation in 2020 being exclusively conducted over Zoom and masks being required in 2021. Knowles described Orientation 2020 as being exhausting and long, to the point that she almost did not reapply. Even last year, there were a number of challenges and changes, despite orientation being held in-person.

In 2022, the changes implemented by Black and the OTLs helped return orientation to normalcy or at least a new version of it. Knowles added, “This year things felt way more settled in terms of COVID-19, but also because of the fact the that OTLs have known the program and the bumps on the road, so this year felt really solid and like we could focus on what matters during orientation: connection, welcoming and fun!”

Mayu Lee ‘24 says, “Orientation starts me off with sixty-something wonderful connections before school starts. Spending a week with a group of people that want to be here with each other and create a great atmosphere, not only for incoming students but for also ourselves, makes the beginning of the school year 100 times better! It might be a little cheesy, but I know that I’ve made lifelong friends through the process, and have made connections with people that will always have my back.”

OLs and OTLs were not the only ones who had positive things to say about orientation this year. Freshmen also saw the changes have a positive impact on their transition to college. Rebecca Cohen ‘26 said, “Orientation was so much fun. It was so weird and random but I loved it. It definitely helped to have a schedule every day to help ease you into college but it was definitely a busier schedule than regular college.”

Lyam Shook ‘26, a commuting student, also had a positive experience, saying, “I thought orientation was helpful. I just wished they had promoted it more beforehand because I missed a part of it because of work.”

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