An Interview Featuring Heather Phillips, AAD, Coordinator of Student Services at Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences (pictured left)

This fall, many cohorts will find themselves not only starting a new program, but also becoming immersed in a virtual environment — some even for the first time. How can educators and faculty help set up students for success from the start in this new reality?

ARC/STSA spoke with Heather Phillips, coordinator of student services at Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences, on how their program is helping new students feel welcomed in this challenging time.

We understand that this year you will conduct a virtual orientation for new cohorts. What does this entail?

Our orientation will be primarily virtual, but we will have one two-hour block where small groups of students can meet their program director and faculty in person and receive computer orientation. We will use Webex to deliver our director’s welcome and address, student services, cyber security and curriculum presentations. We will then hold optional Skype question and answer sessions. 

What steps did you take to ensure students would feel welcomed?

Due to COVID-19, our annual Accepted Student Day event was canceled. To help students feel connected, administration, faculty and staff submitted 10-20 second video clips of themselves welcoming the students. We then put these clips into video format and sent it to the incoming students via YouTube. Faculty also held optional Zoom or Skype sessions. They truly went above and beyond to connect with the incoming students. 

Administration, faculty, staff, and current students have worked together to make sure the incoming students are well connected. In addition, our Student Government Association sent every current and incoming student a note with a $10 gift card for Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard [a local treat] to connect with the students. 

This is a challenging period for students, especially those new to the field. Why do you believe a virtual orientation of this kind is important?

Orientation has always been an important piece for students new to the field. During these challenging times, however, I believe a virtual orientation is our best alternative. Whether orientation is face-to-face or virtual, it is important to find creative ways to introduce new students to their program of study and the team of individuals who are available to support them throughout their educational journey.