With WSU’s orientation online, TMs find new ways to connect with students 



This screenshot shows a TikTok video from the Wichita State Office of First-Year Programs. With most of orientation online, transition mentors are using social media and other tools to connect with new students.

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, Wichita State University is welcoming new students to campus virtually this summer. 

This year’s orientation program is happening in three phases: virtual events, required online modules and in-person events following safety guidelines in August. 

Shareika Fisher, assistant director of first-year programs, said restructuring orientation to fit a mostly online format was a major undertaking. 

“It’s been an incredible amount of work and manpower and brainpower in every single detail of trying to make sure that the (transition mentors) feel prepared and that the new students have all the information they need,” said Fisher, who leads training for TMs. 

“The amount of work that I, alongside my team, have completed since the first week of April to get everything transitioned is about the equivalent to a year’s worth of planning and work.” 

Josephy Nguyen, transition mentor

Josephy Nguyen, a junior dental hygiene major at WSU, is working as a TM for the first time this year. She said the switch to an online format made orientation different from her expectations.  

“I’m just trying to keep really positive because I know everyone’s going through it,” Nguyen said. 

One challenge for Nguyen, she said, is connecting with students when she’s not able to meet with them face-to-face. 

“It’s a lot harder because we’re doing orientation over zoom, and a lot of [the students] don’t have their cameras on,” Nguyen said, “so I don’t know if they’re paying attention, I don’t know if they’re listening … In person, you can see their facial expressions, you can see that they’re there with you.” 

To combat this, Fisher said TMs are reaching out to students months earlier than usual and are keeping in contact through email and social media – including Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok

Caitlin Nolen, transition mentor

Caitlin Nolen, a workforce management major, is working as a TM for the third year in a row. While moving orientation online comes with challenges, she said, it also comes with perks. 

“I have seen students feel more comfortable, because when students come on campus, they’re very nervous or some may be really anxious,” Nolen said. “Now, them being online in their own space, they seem more comfortable to speak up or to ask questions or to just be engaged.”

Fisher echoed that sentiment. 

“[There have been] a lot more students engaging with them on social media to ask questions about their transitions, as well as responding back to those emails that we’re sending out to new students,” Fisher said. 

A hurdle for all new WSU students is learning to easily navigate the 330-acre main campus between classes. The university is using virtual tours to substitute the usual in-person visits and familiarize students with on-campus resources. 

To make the virtual tours as life-like as possible, Nolen said she’s been encouraging her fellow TMs to share personal on-campus experiences with students.

“Students like to hear facts, they like to hear what’s in the building, but they also like to hear what you have done in that building,” Nolen said. “They want to hear what classes you’ve taken, they want to hear that personal experience. . . . we know this isn’t an in-person tour, but we want to make [it] as realistic as possible.”

As of Monday, 1,923 students have RSVP’d for future orientations. Out of that number, 1,470 are incoming freshmen.