Students walk around campus for recruitment, Friday, June 23, 2014, at Utah Valley University in Orem. (Nathaniel Ray Edwards, UVU Marketing)

Every year, Utah Valley University expects approximately 6,000 new students.

Restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic won’t change that. In fact, with many missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints returning early because of the virus, there may be even more students enrolling.

How UVU welcomes those students to the Orem campus, however, could be changing.

Michelle Kearns is the associate vice president from Student Success and Retention, and part of her department’s charge is to organize new student orientation. She and her staff are currently examining how they can change the process to conform to virus restrictions.

“Our current model consists of an online portion and a face-to-face campus experience,” Kearns said. “Online orientation is the nuts and bolts, things students need to know like how to register, the components of a degree and basic educational pieces. Then there is a face-to-face segment where they come on campus, go on tour and meet advisors and orientation leaders. It’s all about getting them connected to campus.”

The face-to-face portion of the orientation will likely have to change dramatically due to social distancing and campus closures.

“The purpose of our orientation is to help students transition to higher education,” Kearns said. “We give them the tools and infrastructure information they need. We introduce them to student rights and responsibilities. We connect them to majors. We want them to be well-informed about the resources they need to succeed at UVU.”

Orientations for fall semester normally begin June 1.

“We have 16 orientations over the course of the summer up until the first day of school in the fall,” Kearns said. “What we’re planning right now is in the event we can’t do the face-to-face campus experience, we are adding content to the online orientation and building out of that online offering.”

Kearns said there would be more virtual options for tours of campus and opportunities to meet online with advisors and orientation leaders.

“We haven’t made a decision yet on how it will all work,” Kearns said. “We’ll wait until May 1. We’re still working on both models so we’ll be well prepared.”

All of the online content is produced in-house in the Student Success and Retention department.

“We have talented teams both in the media department and orientation office,” Kearns said. “We contract with a provider for the platform that allows us to do the online work.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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