The following article appeared in the August 25, 2006, edition of Inside Higher Ed.
Re-Orientation: College students love their reality television
"We have been moving toward these new creative genres that can combine with pedagogical engagement," said Bukics. "We wanted to focus on a serious and provocative subject, while realizing that students today have different ways of learning."
This generation has also grown up watching more reality show programs than any cohort before them. "In my day, it was game shows," said Andrews. "So my orientation had sessions with a bunch of ‘Jeopardy’-like question and answer sessions.
"Now, we use shows like the ‘Amazing Race’ to get students connected to campus," he added. "It's all about appealing to what students like in a moment of time in culture."
Lehigh has taken advantage of the interest in reality design shows, in particular, by getting Diane Albright, a star of HGTV's "Mission: Organization," to show up on campus to give students tips on fitting their belongings into the often cramped quarters of dorms. She decorated two mock-rooms with items from the campus store, and is expected to answer questions about getting organized throughout orientation.
Allison Ragon, who coordinates freshman programs at Lehigh, said that the idea is to provide an additional service to a generation of students accustomed to convenience. In the midst of registering new students on Thursday, she said that students and parents have been giving "phenomenal reviews" to the effort," which is dubbed "Room Service."
Officials at Pennsylvania State University's main campus, in University Park, meanwhile, will try a new experiment during orientation this year, trying to capitalize on the well-documented high levels of volunteerism among young people today.
The university's Division of Student Affairs has been planning “Operation: Home Delivery,” a project that will allow students to help build a Habitat for Humanity home starting during orientation next week. Once completed, the house is intended for a family that has relocated to the local region from the Gulf Coast due to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.
Students will be asked to volunteer a minimum of two hours to start building the frame of the home and to talk about social justice issues. The project is expected to be completed by the end of spring semester.
"We're engaging on an interest in volunteering that's already there," said Geoff Rushton, a spokesman for the university. "Students now seem to really want to participate in these kinds of activities."
Andrews believes that all of the new orientation developments aren't simply a fad.
"It used to be that if you gave them free food, they would come," he said. "Of course, that's still true. But we really want to go beyond that to capture their attention and interests."