ECU’s evolution of orientation

Students and family members on East Carolina University’s campus for new student orientation this summer can participate in sessions on computer requirements and study abroad opportunities, which is vastly different from orientations in the early 1900s that included laundry service tips and how to use the college post office.

Student Shatiece Starks, right, smiles alongside Academic Library Services employee Kristen Daniel as they look at the new student orientation exhibit they curated.

An exhibit on the first floor of the main campus library uses photographs, newspapers and orientation programs to highlight the different eras of student orientations. New student orientation sessions for freshmen are underway and the exhibit will remain into August, giving visitors chances to view it during June and July while soaking in campus sights and traditions and getting acclimated to Pirate Nation.

Student Shatiece Starks and library employee Kristen Daniel curated the exhibit. Starks was not on campus for the installation, so she was pleasantly surprised when she worked her first shift after installation and saw the cases complete.

“I walked by to go to the vending machines and I did a double take when I saw it,” she said. “The biggest smile spread across my face during that moment.”

Orientation helps introduce students to campus life and resources available to assist in making a smooth transition to ECU.

Although some specifics have changed compared to decades past, facilitating student success remains a pillar of orientation.

“I’m really proud that we were able to shed light on this piece of ECU’s history in a way that is relevant to current students,” said Daniel, Special Collections instruction and outreach librarian for Academic Library Services. “New student orientation at ECU has been around for almost a century — records indicate it started around 1929 — so it feels good to connect today’s students with those who came before them. I’m excited that the exhibit is being displayed near the front of the library, and I’m hopeful it is in a good spot for students to explore it with their parents and families during their orientation this summer.”

Starks, who works in the library as a circulation assistant and North Carolina Collection intern, is an English major who will begin the ECU Master of Library Science program this fall.

Curating the exhibit began with compiling newspaper articles from various years. There was plenty of research involved, like noting that orientation used to be a one-time session in September. The first East Carolinian special summer orientation issue was produced in 1967, and an ECU orientation mobile guide was introduced in 2015.

East Carolina College freshmen line up for orientation check-in in the lobby of Wright Auditorium on Sept. 10, 1962. (ECU Manuscript Collection)

Sketches of the layout for the exhibit cases were discussed and finalized, with intent to highlight important and eye-catching items.

“Kristen and I took things step-by-step and met several times throughout the process, and it was so beautiful seeing it all come together,” Starks said. “It was also very interesting to go through old photographs, programs and newspapers. I felt like I was peeking through a window of a time machine.”

As a mentor to Starks for this project, Daniel said Starks was very adaptive and showed initiative in curating her first exhibit.

“She played a big part in this exhibit coming to life, and it was a pleasure to work with her,” Daniel said.

In conjunction with the exhibit, orientation attendees can take a picture with the PeeDee the Pirate statue in the library and have their photo shared on the magnet wall, which is also on the first floor of the library.

Library employees are hoping to add to the summer orientation experience for incoming students and their guests.

“It feels especially timely to have this displayed during the new student orientations taking place this summer, so I hope people will take the opportunity to explore the exhibit while they are here,” Daniel said. “With the evolving nature of new student orientation, my secret hope is that someone will create a new version of this exhibit 20, 30, 50 years from now, so we can see how things have changed from today.”