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Chilly Weather, Warm Reception for Incoming Students

January Orientation 2013

Incoming students and their families meet at the start of January Orientation this year. Photo by Patrick Bradley.


Most people associate university orientation with summer, when scores of new students flood campus, ready to begin their AU experience. While winter may be a quieter – and colder – time for incoming students, January Orientation still hosts a number of helpful programs on a smaller, more personal scale.

In some ways, assistant director of New Student Programs Mike Metzger prefers AU’s winter orientation. During summer’s Eagle Summit sessions, Metzger and NSP host an average of 1,600 incoming Eagles.

With 120 students and their parents, guardians, or guests coming, the smaller January orientation numbers allows his staff’s qualities to shine.

“Our summer program has so many unique characteristics to it, but for January, our ethic of care is just super strong,” he says. “It’s even stronger this time of year thanks to not having sixteen hundred students. When we only have one hundred and fifty coming in, we’re really able to give some one-on-one attention.”

That ethic of care extends from Metzger, NSP director Tiffany Sanchez, and their staff of four student orientation coordinators and two volunteers. It’s a small operation that organizes a big schedule for incoming students and their families. The two-day program includes sessions ranging from sessions on tools for academic success and dinner out in the city to learning the traditional AU Eagle Call.

Wonks, Incoming

The crowd of incoming students includes both transfers as well as first-year freshmen starting their college career in the spring. It’s a group Metzger gets to know well and comes to admire each year.

“For this group, I know a lot of their names. It’s that nice personal touch that the smaller group lends to. It’s something special about January,” he says. “These students seem to have a bit more of their life plans carved out. Perhaps, that’s because they’ve been to an institution or took the fall off to plan. It’s nice to see that.”

New Kogod School of Business student Melanie Alvarado is one those students transferring in from another institution. AU, however, has always been on the Virginia native’s mind.

“I love this place. This was my number one school when I was applying as a freshman. I got in and thought, ‘Let me try something else,’” she says. “I’m so happy to be back. I love it.”

Like any AU incoming class, the group also boasts its fair share of international students, with upwards of 30 this winter. First-year finance major Mpho Mohurutshe counts herself part of that number, as AU’s quality reputation brought her all the way from Botswana.

“It’s a good school, and it’s highly recommended,” she says of why she decided to attend AU. “It’s very academically challenging, and you have the support from the students and the professors.”

The international appeal also attracted College of Arts & Sciences transfer student Katie Fritz. Hailing from just outside of Philadelphia, she thinks being in Washington, DC, is key for her global interests.

“I want to work at the German embassy, and I can’t think of a better place to be than here,” she explains.

Now on campus, however, she’s also noticed another upside to AU, noting, “Everyone’s really open. They’re saying join clubs and talk to people. I feel like I could just walk into a club and people would [say], ‘Hey, welcome!’”

Take Away Spirit

As students walk away from their two-day orientation experience, Metzger hopes they take with them one feeling that will stick with them over their years at American University.

“They belong here,” he says. “I would love them to go through the program and say, ‘This is my home now. I’m an AU Eagle.’ That’s always a good feeling at the end of the day.”

Hearing from these few new students, it’s hard to think Metzger will be disappointed, and as the Call goes, “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”