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Ketchum University’s Fall Orientation Program: Creating a Culture of Student Success


Ketchum University will soon welcome its new incoming classes of optometry, PA and pharmacy students. The students will hit the ground running with a unique orientation program designed to meet them where they are and introduce them to the school’s carefully crafted culture of success.

“Our goal with orientation is to make the students feel welcome here on campus and introduce them to the culture of the University,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Carmen Barnhardt. “We also devote time and create events during orientation for students to connect with each other.”

Students from all three disciplines will participate in a one-day orientation on August 16, then attend separate orientations within their respective Colleges. The one-day, University orientation provides them with an overview of campus expectations, procedures and policies, as well as a look into the resources available to them so they may stay on track, working toward success.

“One of our messages during orientation will be to let students know – ‘We are glad you are here, we know you will be successful, but if something gets in the way and you need support – we are here for you,’” says Dr. Barnhardt.

Orientation week opens with an evening picnic on Tuesday, August 15. The picnic is hosted by the incoming students’ Peer Advisors and offers incoming students a chance to make connections with their new classmates both within their professional graduate program and with the other professional programs as well.

“The students will also have time to interact with their Peer Advisors and tour the campus,” says Dr. Barnhardt.

University orientation begins with an address from Ketchum President Kevin L. Alexander, OD, PhD. Later, students will be introduced to all three Deans during “Meet the Deans.” Here the Deans will provide an overview of the professions so all students can understand the variety of programs offered at Ketchum. “This is also a perfect introduction to interprofessional education, a core component of the curriculum,” says Dr. Barnhardt.

Since all of the students will have successfully navigated undergraduate school prior to being accepted to Ketchum, the students typically are accustomed to functioning on their own. Most students also realize graduate school will be more difficult, but some underestimate how much more difficult it can be, especially the transition period. Many aspects of life during this time may change (e.g. living situation, relationship status, finances, etc.). For that reason, the University has worked hard to develop programs to help students succeed academically and emotionally.

Director of University Student Counseling Services Dr. Alyse Kirschen provides students with an overview of services available at the counseling center. Many of these services are geared towards teaching students the value of self-care and stress management.

Assistant Director for Student Affairs and Student Engagement Tori Holmes says orientation is also an opportunity to advise students of the services provided by the Student Achievement Center and within the Dr. Lorraine Voorhees Resource Room. Those services include seminars on such topics as communication, financial literacy and managing test anxiety.

“Orientation provides an opportunity to give students information about the services and resources available to them throughout their enrollment at Ketchum University,” says Holmes.

Holmes says attention is also given to address the needs of all students who come to the University as married individuals or as parents. For instance, the University’s Married Student Club hosts a welcome brunch each year at the end of orientation week.

“We have a lot of students who come to MBKU that aren’t SoCal natives that have spouses and/or families joining them,” says Holmes.

One of the jobs of campus Peer Advisors is to write a blog over the summer. One of the advisors wrote a blog targeting other married students, advising them to make sure their spouses feel a part of the journey. The University has posted these blog posts to their magazine site throughout the summer. They’ve also promoted them on social media hoping to increase readership among incoming and prospective students.

The individual Colleges also work during their orientations to make the students feel welcome. For instance, the Dean of the College of Pharmacy hosts a dinner for students. The School of PA Studies organizes a service project at the conclusion of its orientation where student spend the day working at a food bank. SCCO students will have the opportunity to have coffee and donuts with their first year faculty members. In addition to the Married Student Club brunch, orientation week concludes with a fun event where the incoming students are invited to an evening of bowling with their Peer Advisors.

“Our job is to meet the students where they are at,” explains Dr. Barnhardt. “We don’t view orientation as a one day event; we see orientation as a process.”

“I want students to walk away at the end of orientation and say – ‘I am glad I came to school here. I made the right choice,’” adds Dr. Barnhardt.