JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm joining you from the beautiful Willard Straight Hall here on campus, and I'm so excited to be one of the first to welcome you to Cornell University. And welcome to our spring 2022 orientation.
My name is Jenny Loeffelman, and I am the assistant Vice President for Student and Campus Life. And we are so glad that you joined us here today. A special welcome to all of our new students as well as family members who are here with us. We want to make you aware that today's orientation presentations are being recorded and will be made available on this new student programs website after orientation.
We have a number of great virtual orientation programs planned for you over the next few days, and we hope you will join us for many activities and events offered through the spring semester once we do start in-person events. We, in student and campus life, are here to help you thrive in pursuit of your academic and personal goals, and we encourage you to extend your learning beyond the classroom and embrace the breadth of Cornell.
And now to provide your official welcome to Cornell, it's my sincere pleasure to introduce you to our Vice President of Student and Campus life-- Dr. Ryan Lombardi.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great, thank you so much, Jenny. I appreciate the warm welcome. And most importantly, welcome to all new Cornellians. We are thrilled to have you as a part of the Cornell family and welcome to your orientation. I regret that we're doing it this way virtually as we start off this semester, but hopefully, that won't be the case for very long. And I hope this actually gives everybody a chance to maybe access this program a little more evenly than would have been otherwise the case, especially some parents who may be tuning in today and joining us virtually as well.
I am coming to you from my office in cold and snowy Ithaca, New York, as I look out at McGraw Tower. It is a chilly day, and there's some beautiful snow on the ground. If you're not already here to experience that, please know that you'll be experiencing it very soon.
I do want to thank you again for choosing to join the Cornell family. I know this is a big decision, a tough decision, one that's often filled with lots of debate and consideration. But I think you've made an amazing choice and hope that you have an incredible Cornell experience.
Obviously, we will be in person soon, just not in this orientation session, though many of you are already making your way back to campus or to campus for the first time. And I look forward to having the chance to see you around campus very soon. It's picking up every day as more and more students get back here to Ithaca.
So as Jenny mentioned, I have pleasure of serving as the Vice President for Student and Campus Life here at Cornell. This is my seventh year of doing so. It's an amazing role, and I feel very privileged to have it and to support all of our students in their experience while they're at Cornell.
I am also a parent, not of a Cornell student. My kids are just a few years away from going to college. So for the parents that are out there joining us today, I'll be in your shoes here real soon. Not totally prepared for it, I'll be the first to admit, despite my role in welcoming folks all the time to our campus.
I want to tell you just a little bit about Student and Campus Life. And Jenny mentioned our role is to really help to transform-- help you have a transformative experience while you're here at Cornell. But let me put a finer point on that. Our work in Student and Campus Life is focused on all of the life that occurs outside of the classroom. So our team are the ones that are putting together things in the residence halls, managing the residence halls, our dining services, so where you live and eat, where you might go shopping to get your books or to get your Cornell merch, the Cornell stores, our health services, mental health services, medical services on campus.
We're the ones that are supporting our 37 varsity athletic teams, overseeing our recreation facilities, intramurals and club sports and physical education classes. We help to shepherd many of Cornell's student organizations, Greek letter organizations, other elements of the campus activities and clubs that the many thousands that are here on campus. We promote programs to support your cultural, your religion, and your identity-- your personal identity-- and try to make sure we provide a supportive environment for you to thrive in and out of the classroom.
And importantly, we're also the ones that can help you as you consider career pursuits through our Office of Cornell Career Services and make sure that we can help you be a fully engaged member of this community, our local community, and the community that you will experience once you finish at Cornell. But that's a ways off, so we don't want to get too focused on life after Cornell. We want to focus a little bit on life at Cornell.
Now, I know most of you tuning in today are transfer students joining us. There are a few new students-- first time college students. So I want to certainly welcome you all and certainly welcome our transfer students. I do recognize that for transfer students you've already experienced life at another institution in some way, shape, or form. So I don't want to be redundant with my time with you this morning, but I do want to hit on a couple of points that I think are important as you begin your journey at Cornell.
Now, the first thing I want to talk about is COVID and how we're opening this semester. None of us want to continue to be living in a pandemic. Every semester my team and I-- Jenny, others on my team-- we're thinking we're just turning the corner and it's ready to go.
And we do, and we've had great semesters. We had an incredible fall semester all the way up until the last week. And we're really hopeful after a cautious opening this spring that we'll get right back to the full activity that we have.
But we know, as everybody knows, that the Omicron variant is surging in the United States right now and frankly, across the globe. And therefore, we want to make sure that we start this semester cautiously with our two weeks of classes virtually. That makes sure that all students have access to continue to take classes even if they have to be in isolation from testing positive for COVID or if they get stuck with travel. Travel's been a nightmare lately, a lot of our international students and domestic students having flights disrupted.
So we wanted to make sure for these first two weeks that everybody could be attending classes, regardless of their isolation status, whether they could make to Ithaca or not. So we're going to have this cautious opening, and then it's our full intent to get back to in-person classes after February 4 when the online period ends.
This hasn't been a normal experience for us. We've been at the forefront of leading in this pandemic as an institution. In fall of 2020, we were one of the first institutions in the country to open and to create a safe way to open and have meaningful activity on campus when many campuses were very much shut down and not engaging in activity at all. So we will continue to push forward as much as we can.
You may be asking why all of our classes aren't always hybrid. Cornell is not an institution that's set up to deliver that. This is a residential experience at Cornell, and there are a couple of reasons. Frankly, aside from us believing so deeply in that residential experience, our classrooms-- we have an old historic campus-- our classrooms are not all designed to facilitate that type of environment. So it's really important again-- it's most feasible for us to either be all in-person or all virtual. Obviously, two weeks virtual, and then we get back to in-person.
We are still having other activities going on in these two weeks of virtual classes. When we think about the health and well-being of our students, we really try to do think about that in a holistic sense. So obviously, we have to be very thoughtful around the impact of Omicron and COVID but also very attuned to the strain this has put on our own mental health-- myself, our colleagues, students-- who have really felt the isolation and the loneliness that has been perpetuated through this pandemic and some of the restricted activities.
So that's why it's been so important for us to make sure we have libraries open, our fitness centers open, other activities that can be done safely in these first two weeks and that everybody can participate in effectively, even if they're in isolation. So Greek recruitment-- we're doing things like that in a way that allow virtual so that everybody has a chance to participate. And we're going to keep doing that.
You just need to make sure you do your part complete all the things we've asked you to do-- your arrival, your pre-arrival, telling us when you're going to get here if you're not already here. Make sure you're wearing those high quality masks around campus. Do your antigen tests or your PCR tests, depending on your circumstance and what your status is. Those things make a difference, and they're not huge steps to have to take in order to have this fulfilling residential experience.
So please know, we will continue to do all we can to support your experience and just do your part. And we'll make this a great semester without question. Really encouraged the cases in New York are already starting to trend back down, and we hope that continues to be the case.
Now, let me just say a few other things not pandemic-related-- because we're all really tired of talking about the pandemic-- but about what you might expect at Cornell and just a couple of pieces of advice before I turn this back over to my colleagues. So let me just say what you should expect from Cornell.
First of all, we want you to be successful. Our goal for every single student who comes to Cornell is to have a great experience in the classroom, to thrive academically, to gain knowledge and insight and expertise, and also to have an amazing college experience outside of the classroom. We want you to grow. We're going to challenge you to do so. We want you to do so in a well-rounded and healthy way. We want to support your health and well-being-- lots of resources out there to help with this.
I do encourage you-- I'm a big proponent of positive mental health and really taking care of and practicing self-care and taking care of yourself. Make sure to check out our mental health website-- mentalhealth.cornell.edu. This is designed to help you navigate the resources, the different care options. And families who are listening, there's information for you there as well that can help you support your students while they're here at Cornell.
Lots of resources and you'll hear from my colleagues a little bit later with some additional resources to help you with your learning experience. But please be sure to ask for support and assistance. I often have students say, well, I didn't want to bother that office, or I didn't want to bother by asking for help and support.
Please do it. That's what we're here for. We're here to help support your experience. We're partners in this journey, and we very much want you to be successful. Remember that you've got to play a role in making that happen. That's going to be the most important thing that you can do in these coming years.
Just a couple of pieces of advice. Please be sure to take advantage of the Cornell network it is amazing. Parents, also take advantage of this Cornell network. Get to know your peers, students on campus. Get to know alumni. They're here to help. They're here to welcome you as a part of the Cornell family and help you have the best experience possible.
Students, connect with your faculty. Make sure to get all you can out of these world-class, phenomenal faculty we have. Introduce yourself to each and every one of them at the end of your first class. Just say hello.
It just takes a minute to go up and introduce yourself and say hello. It doesn't have to be anything more than that. It doesn't have to be awkward. It will make a difference.
And families, if you're supporting your student, help them be aware of their health and encourage them to do these things also. You'll need to be prepared to change and to grow and to learn. Keep your mind open to that.
The biggest thing you could miss out on in a college experience-- and particularly at Cornell-- is if you came in feeling like you already had everything figured out and you weren't open to considering different perspectives, to learning more about yourself and becoming the best version of yourself.
So with that, I talked at you for a few minutes. There's a lot of other programs that we have for you today. I just want to say, students, we are so glad that you are here. We're thrilled that you're part of the Cornell family. Please seek us out for help and support along the way and know that we have that common goal in mind for you to be successful and for you to have an incredible experience.
I look forward to getting to meet many of you on campus. If you see me running around campus, please be sure to say hello, and I'll do the same. Meanwhile, have a great start to the semester, and I look forward to seeing you soon. And I think I'll kick it back to Jenny now.
JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Thanks so much, Ryan. I do want to share a couple links in the chat. Ryan mentioned some ways to get involved these next few weeks. We have a series of virtual programs to be able to connect with other students at Cornell. We've got some online comedians planned, some concerts, some painting nights, just some unique opportunities for you to connect with other people.
And then, of course, after February 7, all of those events will start again in person. So we call it WOW-- our Weeks of Welcome . And it's really the first 30 days of the semester with really intentional programming to be able to find a sense of belonging here on campus.
The other event I want to highlight for you is our Club Fest. And there's a bunch of information on our website about Club Fest and how to get involved in different organizations on campus. That event will happen later in February and will be in person.
But check out that. All of our clubs and organizations are featured so you can start to connect yourself with your interests and what is here on campus for you.
So again, thank you so much, Ryan, for providing those welcoming remarks. As Ryan mentioned, you will hear from a number of campus partners today, including Dr. Amy Godert, who will provide insight about student success and Cornell in your next session. That program will start at 2:45. So please use this same Zoom link, and she will be here at 2:45 to continue the program. Again, thank you so much for joining us today, and welcome to Cornell.
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Student and Campus Life Leadership welcomes students to Spring Orientation 2022 in this live recording.