The College of Optometry prides itself on successfully preparing incoming classes, not only for the rigors of an optometric curriculum, but also in having numerous opportunities to become very engaged with their extended family, the individuals they will depend upon frequently during the four years to come. Of course, a class Facebook site, established early in the year of their admission, followed by an April mixer attended by almost all of the incoming class members, as well as the posting of online bios are helpful in this process.
That said, a very comprehensive orientation, held immediately before classes begin, is extremely beneficial. Nick Palisch, Director of Student and Alumni Services, is responsible for many of the programs that both bring the incoming class together as well as educate them. “Orientation is an important part of becoming a student here because it shares with the students the expectations and provides them with additional tools to be ready for the first day of classes.”
For the Class of 2022, orientation was held August 15 – 17th. An emphasis of this program was how to optimize student success. Nick Palisch reviewed an extensive binder of material to help acclimate them to the program. He also presented a lecture: “Study Skills and Preparation.” Dean Larry Davis presented on the topic of “Learning for Success.” Dr. Julie DeKinder, Director of Academic Programs and Residencies, presented on the topic of “Academic Responsibilities and Expectations” while Karen Munkel from Health and Counseling spoke on the ever-important topic of “Stress and Survival.” In addition, an always popular forum to help incoming students adapt to a new and more rigorous program is the “Student Experiences” panel. Current student leaders in the program provide their insights into how to get off to a good start in the program – including study strategies and resources – while answering many questions from a class that desires to be successful.
With the knowledge that an important part of orientation is for the class members to have the opportunity to become more engaged with each other, numerous opportunities were provided for them to accomplish this. As in past years, Assistant Dean Ed Bennett supervised several small group sessions in which class members had the opportunity to learn more about the individuals in their group as well as their class as a whole. One of the sessions required each class member to indicate in what way(s) they could help the rest of the class (find resources, help with intramurals, cook, serve as a handyman, etc.). The evenings also provided excellent opportunities to meet via such activities as a Cardinals baseball game, and an AOSA-sponsored picnic at Forest Park.
Orientation also allowed for the Class of 2022 to hear from both optometric and student leaders representing many organizations, including the American Optometric Association, the Missouri Optometric Association, the American Academy of Optometry, and the Missouri Optometric Foundation. A mini-organization fair was held so that students could become familiar with the organizations that they may be interested in joining. They also were educated about campus safety as well as optometric residencies and opportunities in the military.
Finally, orientation allowed an opportunity for class members to meet the faculty. Nick Palisch said, “Orientation is three days to help deliver important information regarding the next four years of school as well as meeting their faculty mentor and other members the optometry administration and faculty.” For class of 2022 member Amra Softic, it was a wonderful vehicle for relieving the apprehension that is very understandable when making this transition. “Orientation was a great opportunity to review all the information that we had been given over the past few months. It helped put me at ease knowing what to expect going into the first couple of weeks, as well as hearing what was expected of me during my time at UMSL. It was a laid-back environment that allowed me to get to know my fellow classmates, as well as some of the faculty and upperclassmen a little better.”