Multicultural orientation to help set first-year students on path to success

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Hours before officially attending their first classes at Penn State, between 400 and 600 first-year students will get a head start on their academic careers thanks to a multicultural student orientation program designed specifically for students from diverse backgrounds.

Held annually for more than 20 years, the New Student Orientation for Multicultural Students serves to familiarize students from historically underrepresented groups with the resources and support infrastructure available to them at Penn State. This year’s orientation will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21, in Heritage Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center. Penn State President Eric Barron will be among the University leaders on hand to address the students.  

“What we try to provide for students is an opportunity for them to make an early connection with the resources and individuals across the University that will be there to support them in their transition from high school to college,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity at Penn State. “We want to get them connected early on through this orientation so that no student is left feeling isolated or disconnected from the University.”

Penn State Multicultural Resources

Penn State is more than just a campus. It is a place where a student’s beliefs and background are as important as their education. Resources are available across the University Park campus to help students from all backgrounds succeed at Penn State.

The orientation, which is co-sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, provides an opportunity for new students to identify and interact with members of the multicultural community at University Park. This includes meeting the multicultural leadership representative in the student’s academic college, as well as learning about academic counseling services available through the Multicultural Resource Center and diversity programming that takes place in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center.

“Our goal for the orientation is we want students not just to know their resources by a printed name, but we want to physically be there to show students who we are as resources and support for them at the University,” said Whitehurst. “When you can have that face-to-face interaction with students, it makes the difference for them to feel comfortable with reaching out to you early on in their college experience.”

In an effort to help students feel better connected to the University and promote greater awareness of the resources available to them, a new brochure called the Penn State Treasure will be distributed at the orientation. Developed by Brian Davis, a rising Penn State junior who attended the multicultural student orientation two years ago, the brochure serves as a one-stop guide to the multicultural resources that are relevant to student success at Penn State.

In addition, a new multicultural resources video that highlights all of the University’s diversity resources will be presented to students. 

“We want them to leave with an idea that they know at least where to go for questions,” said Moses Davis, director of the Multicultural Resource Center. “We want them to know that they have a counselor who is here to support them, to know that there are individuals in their colleges who are here to support them, and that there are tons of other resources around campus to make sure they have what they need to succeed and be academically engaged at Penn State.”

“Students who attend the New Student Orientation for Multicultural Students will be able to make connections with people on campus, which can help them transition to Penn State and graduate,” added Carlos Wiley, director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. “The students will leave the orientation with a great understanding of the resources on campus and a sense of comfort.”

Beyond meeting staff members who can help them succeed in the classroom, another significant aspect of the orientation is that it provides a venue for new students to interact with their peers and begin to build their social networks.

“The orientation is always held the day before classes start, so most students who come here don’t know each other yet,” Davis said. “There’s something important about getting here and seeing that there are people here they can identify with. I think it’s really important for students to realize that they may be one of 45,000, but they are not alone.”

Last Updated August 23, 2016