Pomona College’s Orientation Adventure programs are slated to return this fall semester after a three year hiatus, but this time around, the college is focusing on inclusivity and proximity to campus.
Orientation Adventures (OAs) are multi-day trips to welcome incoming first-year students to the Pomona community. Traditionally, trips have included wilderness and camping experiences scattered around California. Some aspects of past OAs will be revived, while others will be scrapped to support a wider breadth of student interests, Dean of Campus Life Josh Eisenberg told TSL.
New OA programs to debut include on-campus activities like collaborations with the Benton Museum of Art, the Pomona Farm, the Draper Center, KSPC and dining services.
Students who opt to venture beyond the general Claremont vicinity will have the option to embark on one of the more traditional OA trips, including wilderness experiences and camping trips with activities ranging from surfing, kayaking, camping and backpacking.
“We’re still keeping the essence of what OA was, but we’ve decided to make it more broadly interesting to various groups of students,” Eisenberg said. “We’re making OA more accessible and taking advantage of Los Angeles, and we hope to offer anywhere from six to eight OA options in Claremont, Pasadena and the LA region.”
In past years, OA trip offerings lacked on-campus options and only hosted a few trips in the Greater Los Angeles area. Eisenberg, who joined Pomona in 2019 from Dickinson College, was inspired to expand Pomona’s OA program by rolling out changes that take advantage of on-campus resources, staff and faculty.
“A lot of the language I heard when I came to campus is that we have to push students out of their comfort zone [on OAs],” Eisenberg said. “But why? Why can’t students find new people and be comfortable for two or three days? Why can’t the theater students hang with the theater students?”
“A lot of the language I heard when I came to campus is that we have to push students out of their comfort zone [on OAs]. But why? Why can’t students find new people and be comfortable for two or three days?”
Holding the trips within a 2.5 hour radius will ensure that student-athletes have the same slate of options in trips as do other students, Eisenberg added. Previously, some OAs traveled as far away as a six-hour bus ride from Claremont, which limited the slate of trip options in which student-athletes could participate before they returned for practices.
Associate Dean of Campus Life Ellie Ash-Balá added that keeping trips closer to campus could make the experience more accessible and inclusive for students who require accommodations.
“Camp sites and outdoor OAs haven’t always been accessible and friendly spaces for wheelchair users, blind students, and students with medical conditions,” Ash-Balá said. “So something I’ve been thinking about, and having conversations with students about, is designing OAs where every student gets a full experience.”
One of the on-campus OA trips set to launch this fall will be led by Erica Tyron, staff advisor for KSPC, the community radio station based at Pomona College.
“The plan is to partner with KPCC 89.3 for a student experience that at minimum will involve a behind the scenes tour of their state-of-the art broadcast facility, and ideally will also include some hands-on and/or interactive workshop activities,” Tyron said via email.
The Benton Museum is also working to develop a program that will “give students the opportunity to discover the expansive Southern California arts scene,” Salim Moore, the assistant curator of collections said via email. “We’re hoping to include a range of cultural experiences and institutions from the visual arts to performance so that new students get a taste of what this region has to offer.”
Dining Services, the Draper Center and the Farm are also in the beginning stages of developing OA programs. Farm Manager Kay Sterner told TSL that they are working on “a close to home option for OA that still gives students the chance to get outside and interact with nature.”
Ash-Balá and Eisenberg expect that two-thirds of the incoming freshman class will have OA experiences in the wilderness or at campsites, while one-third will participate in on-campus OAs. The goal, they emphasized, is to gauge responses to the expanded programs in the fall and eventually offer exactly what students want. For now, they are finalizing the hiring of a new director of the Outdoor Education Center and recently concluded OA leader recruiting.
“I want to be an OA leader to give back to the community, because I experienced the last real OA, and I want to help recreate the experience I had for [incoming] freshmen,” Katherine Purev PO ’23, who was chosen to be an OA leader, said in an interview. She’s also excited to teach first year students traditional OA games like Big Booty.
Many rising juniors and rising sophomores, who didn’t get the chance to experience OA due to COVID-19, are also going to be OA leaders. Ash-Balá said they have chosen OA leaders based on willingness to learn over skills and experience, because most students on campus next fall will not have experienced OA.
“We’re trying to make sure that everyone will have similar experiences, but not necessarily the same experience. Campfire moments are really important for connection. We’ll have campfires in the wilderness, at campsites and on campus as well!”
Ulas Ayyilmaz PO ’24 is excited to be an OA leader despite never having gone on an OA.
“I’m not apprehensive at all. We’re going to be trained and do a great job introducing freshmen to Pomona and life at college,” Ayyilmaz said. As an international student from Turkey, Ayyilmaz is “excited to represent the diversity of Pomona and to encourage freshmen to be their true selves, unapologetically.”
Like the OA leaders, Eisenberg and Ash-Balá are invested in giving freshmen a memorable experience. Whether students attend one of the traditional outings or choose to stay in Claremont, class bonding over a campfire will still be at the core of the OA experience.
“We’re trying to make sure that everyone will have similar experiences, but not necessarily the same experience,” Eisenberg said. “Campfire moments are really important for connection. We’ll have campfires in the wilderness, at campsites and on campus as well!”