Orientation Program Provides Warm Welcome for Class of 2017
Orientation Program Provides Warm Welcome for Class of 2017

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

The students in Tyler Prigionieri’s orientation group were a little quiet. “That’s to be expected,” he said. After all, it was the first day of Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) for UNH’s incoming Class of 2017. But then Prigionieri taught them a chant he learned when he studied abroad last year in Australia.

“That got everyone relaxed,” said the junior communications and theater major.  The group even came up with a signal, holding up three fingers in a kangaroo sign. “If they need anything or are concerned about anything, I told them `Put up the roo!’ and now it’s our thing,” he said.

UNH is welcoming members of the Class of 2017 with orientation programs throughout June and July.

By early afternoon, Gianna Turchi of Granby, Emily Barkley of Blackstone, Mass., Nasya Hubbard of Gulf Shore, Ala., and Jennifer Montesanto from East Haven said they were starting to feel like members of the UNH community. “Everyone is so welcoming,” Montesanto said.

As they ate lunch together, Turchi, Barkley and Montesanto said they chose UNH because of its well-known forensic science program, while Hubbard said she liked the pre-med program.

Their Orientation Leader (OL), John Foti, a junior forensic science and biochemistry major from Scotia, N.Y., said he wanted them to feel as connected as he did during his SOAR experience.  “When I went to SOAR, I fell in love with the school,” Foti said. “If they fall in love with the people, then they will fall in love with the place.”

Four SOAR sessions took place in June for incoming students, and one was held for transfer students. Two more sessions for members of the Class of 2017 are planned for July, as is another program for transfer students.

Rebecca Johnson, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said the goal of SOAR is to be “high energy and fun.”

“We give students and families a lot of information,” she said. “We have some anxious people when they first arrive, and our goal is for students and families to make connections, learn about University resources and leave SOAR feeling they made a good decision by choosing UNH and excited about returning in August."

Harold Jones of Brooklyn, N.Y., said he felt confident UNH is the right fit for his daughter Jamila, who plans to study veterinary medicine and run track. “Some of the schools she looked at were like small cities, and others were too small,” he said. “It’s very comfortable here.”

Orientation Co-Chair Colby Thammavongsa said students and their families participate in a busy and exciting two days. Parents attended workshops on campus life, financing the college experience and “Stress and the College Student: Coping, Coaching and Resilience.” Meanwhile, students created a class banner, participated in a Q&A with the deans of each college, learned about clubs and activities, took part in advising and registered for classes. They played games and spent time on the Bixler/Botwinik Quad before spending the night in the residence halls.

Marcus Hellstern, who lives just outside Seattle, Wash., traveled the farthest among his fellow classmates. He says he looks forward to the fall and studying fire science. “It’s one of only three schools that had the program, and I found UNH really interesting,” he said.

The SOAR leaders said they want students to head home counting the days until fall. “Whenever I am coming back to school, I get so excited,” said OL Lindsey Finneral, a sophomore civil engineering major. “As I’m driving back, I am saying, `Yes, yes, yes. I get to go back!’ That’s what I would like them to feel.”

Added OL Aloysious “Dean” Bandong, a senior management major, “I want to be the first friend they have at UNH.”

Check out a photo gallery of the orientation programs.

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