Penn State New Student Orientation begins

Alison Kuznitz
May 11, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Whether an incoming first-year student had a graduating high school class of 50 or 2,000 students, making the transition to a university boasting nearly 46,000 undergraduates can be daunting. And for first-year students already bleeding blue and white, there is still much to learn about academics, diversity and inclusion, and social life when it comes to being a Penn Stater.

Now in its fourth year, the New Student Orientation (NSO) program is able to bridge that gap. Twenty-three orientation leaders and student program specialists receive rigorous instruction through a credit-bearing course and 50 hours of training before introducing first-year students to Penn State culture as they begin their academic careers.

Daniel Murphy, director of the Student Orientation and Transition Program, said 98 percent of first-year students participate in NSO. “I think this speaks to the important role the NSO program plays in the transition to Penn State for both new students and their parents and family members,” he said.

Katie Motycki, associate director for New Student Orientation, said the two-day sessions run for 10 consecutive weeks during the summer. Every session hosts about 220 students. On the first day of NSO, orientation leaders are assigned to a small group of first-year students.

“The orientation leader’s job is to individually interact with students in a small group and model behavior of what it means to be a Penn Stater. They also share important messages about being smart, safe, and the importance of living and learning in a diverse community,” Motycki said.

“It’s nice to be that face where you can ease concerns and help them with their transition. Even in just one day, you can see how a student really changes and starts to become more comfortable with coming to Penn State.”

-- Dane Leone, New Student Orientation student staff coordinator

Student Staff Coordinator Dane Leone, a sophomore and 2015 orientation leader, said first-year students are often nervous at first. Yet, Leone said after several icebreakers and discussions about the Penn State community, everyone begins to open up.

“It’s nice to be that face where you can ease concerns and help them with their transition,” he said. “Even in just one day, you can see how a student really changes and starts to become more comfortable with coming to Penn State.”

Leone said NSO is important because it is one of the first impressions students will have of the University. As a result, all orientation leaders strive to be engaging and show they’re invested in their groups.

“We really try to do a good job of promoting inclusiveness and belonging to the University,” Leone said.

At the end of the first day, students attend NSO LateNight and then spend the night in a residence hall. For the second day of orientation, first-year students travel in larger groups and attend lectures pertaining to academic advising, technology services, and educational planning. The program culminates with students scheduling their fall semester courses on LionPATH.

Motycki, who teaches part of the course leading up to NSO, said members of the orientation team, or "OTeam," gain real-life leadership skills.

“The most rewarding part about the whole OTeam experience, from the first day of class until the day we say goodbye during the OTeam celebration, is the individual growth that each person shows through the experience,” Motycki said.

Leone said that by being accepted into the program, he was able to become more confident and articulate.

“Going into the class last year, I was kind of reserved and held my opinions back at times,” Leone said. “I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking, at all. But, the whole team aspect of the orientation team and the supportive nature of it really helped me.”

Members of the orientation team were selected through an application and interview process.

Motycki said she was searching for “diverse, dedicated, enthusiastic, resourceful and motivated leaders who wanted to make a difference at Penn State.”

The first NSO session begins on May 16.

For more information about New Student Orientation, visit

The Office of Student Orientation and Transition Programs is part of Penn State Student Affairs and Penn State Undergraduate Education. Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 31, 2016