How Powerful Can a Virtual Orientation Really Be?
When I first applied to the EMBA program at RIT, I knew it was the right fit for my busy working life, because I could complete the entire program online from the comfort of my home, or whatever hotel room I’d be hunkered down in on another business trip. There was the minor inconvenience of a global pandemic raging while I completed my application, but I was confident I’d meet the students and faculty in the New Year in person to kick off this next exciting chapter in my life. Little did I know I wouldn’t take another business trip, nor would I grace the halls of RIT before embarking on this journey.
We rang in the New Year hopeful for vaccines and freedom from lockdown, and before we knew it our Orientation Week was finally upon us. Despite having more than 10 months under our pandemic belts at this point, the surge persisted and we were forced to remain completely virtual. So many questions entered my mind.
Would a virtual Orientation even work?
Can you even make meaningful team connections without ever shaking a hand or laying eyes on someone?
Will I make any friends?
Can we possibly endure another 3 full days on Zoom?
Day One of Orientation came bright and early for me on the West Coast, leaving me grateful for the short commute to my kitchen for coffee. Little did I know I’d be the rookie time zone warrior in our cohort, as colleagues soon dialed in from as far away as India and Uganda. With smiles and nervous excitement, we began Day One of the next year and a half of our lives.
We spent the better part of the day getting to know one another as a broader group and with 1:1 conversations before getting a chance to meet our smaller team. Jeff, Lauren, Emilee, and Jessica were fantastic facilitators, and in between finding fun ways to have us interact and getting us to journal our thoughts, they took time to field our many questions and familiarize us with the program flow team cohort structure. Dean Mozrall joined in to welcome us to the program, and we got a sneak peek into the concept of transactive memory, and how this collective memory would help steer our team’s success throughout the program.
After what was undoubtedly the fastest 8 hours of Zoom I have participated in to date, we closed our screens on a great first day, excited for what Day Two would bring.