A St. Olaf tradition for well over thirty years, Week One allows new students to register for classes, become familiar with the campus, and get to know each other before upperclassmen arrive at the beginning of the schoolyear.
Registrar Mary Cisar identified three main elements to the Week One experience: moving in and getting comfortable on campus, meeting people and building a sense of community, and preparing to become a successful college student in a variety of words.
Most students tend to remember the social events from Week One, such as the dances and ice-breakers designed to help students make friends.
First years spend an equal amount of time in preparing for academic rigor in workshops coordinated by the Academic Support Center (ASC). The ASC also organizes schedule planning workshops and other optional academic workshops, such as time management skills, note-taking, and study techniques for foreign language.
The ASC is a resource that students can turn to when they have difficulty in classes, but Peder Bolstad of the ASC noted that in high school "most St. Olaf students never had to as for help."
By introducing first year students to the ASC during Week One through various programs, Bolstad hopes that first years will be aware of their help options when they run into difficulty. He wants them to feel comfortable coming to the ASC to get help, whether it is formal tutoring or finding someone to talk to.
Students had varied reactions to the Week One experience. One reported favorite activity was the series of skits, held in the Pause and organized by the theater department, that explored issues that may arise in college.
Another highlight was the Traditions session, where all the students gathered in Skoglund to learn about St. Olaf's rich heritage. The program culminated with a group of faculty members performing the school fight song "Um Ya Ya" on well-tuned water glasses.
When asked to describe the overall Week One experience, first year Owen Kirk said it was "dubious and baffling." Others were less cryptic. First year Anna S. reported, "Week One is fun, but it [college] gets better," while an Ellingson resident who wished to remain anonymous had a stronger opinion. "It was terrible. I think the college could have done a much better job at integrating us."
So why Week One? Many larger colleges and universities sponsor orientation sessions throughout the summer, allowing students to register months before classes start.
St. Olaf administrators and faculty are still in the process of discussing the pros and cons of Week One.
They are also investigating alternatives, such as a registration process during the summer. Mary Cisar stated, "We are aware that lots of places do (summer registration], but it would be a big change and we can't go into it without really exploring the options."
The current structure of Week One allows for students to get lots of personal attention from faculty and staff, especially during the registration process.
Mary Cisar also pointed out that the Opening Ceremony, when students must say good-bye to their parents, is a "bookend" that will coincide with graduation. The formality of both occasions provides an organized opening and closing to student's college education. Whether or not St. Olaf eventually switches to summer registration, Buntrock director Tim Schroer stated, "I think there will always be some form of Week One. I think it's great."