Identity and Belonging Project Introduces Freshmen to Diversity at Cornell

In between attending icebreaker activities, information sessions and evening fairs, freshmen at Orientation Week will continue a newly established tradition in their first week at Cornell: they will attend the Identity and Belonging Project.

The diversity program, established last year, features stories based on submissions from undergraduates and will be performed by student volunteers, said Lindsay Hansen, director for orientation programs.

“We hope this program will create a strong foundation for our students’ commitment to Cornell’s values and community standards related to identity, inclusion and belonging, and provide a starting point for continued engagement with this work across their time with us, and beyond,” she said.

The Identity and Belonging Project replaced the Tapestry of Possibilities event that had been in place for 11 years.

In addition, “Speak About It,” a troupe of actors who travel raising awareness of sexual violence, will perform skits for first-year and transfer students for the fifth year in a row.

The University announced that it would begin mandating “Speak About It” in May 2013, and the event has been praised by students for conveying the importance of consent in relationships.

In addition to Speak About It, the Orientation Steering Committee welcomes the incoming freshman class and transfer students to Cornell with four days of academic and social events. These events continue through the start of classes into Welcome Weekend, which consists of events such as picnics, movies and ClubFest.

Each year’s orientation typically centers on a theme, ranging from international travel to exploration at home, according to Sarah Jones, former associate director for residential and new student programs.

David Rosenwasser ’18 said he believes that in his year, the orientation groups provided new students with an environment that encouraged them to interact with their peers.

As in previous years, “the way the orientation groups were set up with everyone in my group being from my college was a great opportunity to meet more students in a smaller setting,” Rosenwasser said.

The orientation groups also introduced students to an Orientation Leader, who students say were helpful easing their transition to Cornell.

“My favorite part of O-Week was getting to meet my Orientation Leader,” said Alex Rodriguez ’19. “I came into Cornell with a lot of doubts as to whether I belonged there or not. Being able to meet a student who had already gone through two years was reassuring.”

In addition to orientation group activities, both required and non-mandatory events have high rates of attendance throughout the week, Jones said.

According to Cornell University Police estimates, Convocation typically brings approximately 10,000 people to Schoellkopf Stadium, while 3,000 attend Cornell Essentials — where students hear from upper-class students and alumni about transitioning to Cornell. Over two thirds of each class participates in First Night activities on the Court-Kay-Bauer quad.

OSC members focus each year on improving the Orientation Week experience for transfer students, according to Jones. New programs include paintball, trivia night, ice skating and a casino night, among other events.

Saqif Badruddin ’19 said he enjoyed meeting so many people, in addition to activities with his orientation group.

“O-Week is the best time to meet hundreds of people, only three of which you will be friends with,” Badruddin said.

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