The New Student Orientation (NSO) we know and love today is the product of almost a century of evolution. The hazing and class rivalry of the older days has slowly given way to the instilling of school spirit and academic awareness. Pictured above, new students attend the NSO Playfair, held in the Bell Center.
In 1935, Trinity introduced an orientation week for incoming students that emphasized academic preparation rather than social events and hazing. For the first time, entering students were given standard I.Q. tests and aptitude examinations in English grammar, reading, and vocabulary. A special laboratory section, taught by a member of the English department, provided assistance for students whose scores were low.
Eventually, traditional activities associated with freshman orientation began to encounter resistance from entering students who deemed them juvenile, demeaning, and time-consuming. Responding to repeated criticism, student senate representatives modified the interclass program in 1953. Incoming students were permitted to substitute participation in orientation rituals with campus improvement projects such as landscaping, painting, and decorating. Even this measure, however, failed to quell opposition to the program. In 1954, a majority of women in McFarlin Hall elected not to participate in orientation activities. Their action prompted the Student Senate to halt all inter-class activities for the year and to reappraise the entire new student orientation program. Beginning in the fall of 1955, first-year students voluntarily participated in a six-week orientation program that emphasized the academic, social, and spiritual dimensions of student life and retained only a few traditional activities such as wearing beanies and learning the alma mater.
Today’s NSO focuses on facilitating camaraderie and familiarizing students with all of Trinity’s resources. One week before classes, new students undergo a fast-paced introduction to Trinity that begins with moving in and ends with the first day of classes. Students drop off their possessions and leave the heavy lifting to Team Trinity, a lively group of faculty, staff, alumni and student volunteers who move students’ belongings into their dorms. The next week is a whirlwind of activity: between learning about the campus resources such as the library or recreation center, students participate in welcome picnics by Miller Fountain, meet their residential mentors, and climb Murchison Tower to shake hands with the university president and take a few pictures. Optionally, there are also cookouts, socials for first-generation students as well as LGBTQ+ students, ecumenical Christian services and Catholic masses in Parker Chapel, and the Reading TUgether keynote lecture.