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Learning Oxford -- Students participate in college pre-orientation

Incoming Oxford College freshman recently visited the campus for a few days to participate in Own Oxford, a pre-orientation program. Pictured, from left, are Jacqueline Greyserman from Boca Raton, Fla.; Henry Chappell from St. Louis, Mo.; Stefan Stofberg from Roswell; and Stanley Okoro from Marietta partaking in a team building exercise. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Incoming Oxford College freshman recently visited the campus for a few days to participate in Own Oxford, a pre-orientation program. Pictured, from left, are Jacqueline Greyserman from Boca Raton, Fla.; Henry Chappell from St. Louis, Mo.; Stefan Stofberg from Roswell; and Stanley Okoro from Marietta partaking in a team building exercise. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

OXFORD -- More than 50 incoming freshmen at Oxford College got to explore the campus and surrounding town recently during a special program.

For the first time, Oxford College held Own Oxford, a three-day, two-night pre-orientation program that taught students leadership skills, Oxford history, community service opportunities and more about the surrounding area.

"We were looking for ways to bring students to campus earlier," said Honi Migdol, director of student involvement and leadership at the college.

She said her department had considered holding a summer orientation but discovered that those programs didn't work well for a small campus like Oxford. After researching some trends and programs at various colleges, her department discovered midsummer programs.

The program for Oxford was developed keeping in mind things that Oxford valued as an institution, like diversity, community service, leadership development and health and wellness. College leaders also wanted incoming students to become better introduced to the surrounding community.

During the program, students stayed in the dorms, participated in leadership and communication activities on campus, had dinner with Dean Stephen Bowen at his home, visited restaurants on the Covington Square and collected and organized school supplies for local students as part of a community service project.

"Everybody is really nice here -- they greet you when you come by," said incoming freshman Deborah Fang from Johns Creek.

The program was led by eight rising sophomores who served as leaders. They were trained over the spring.

"I would have loved this if I was a freshman; I wanted to share my love of Oxford," said one of the leaders, Krysten Johnson from Newnan.

Migdol said originally her department thought the program would be a regional attraction, but surprisingly, about half of the students flew in to attend. Students came from Georgia, Florida, Washington, California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, among other states.

"Being the first year, we were very pleased with how engaged and enthusiastic they were," Migdol said.

Students said they felt more comfortable with coming to Oxford later this year by making friends with other freshmen and the sophomore leaders and knowing more about the campus.

"It definitely created a lot of friendships and let me learn more about everybody," said incoming freshman Nicolette Salazar from Miami, adding that she decided to come to hopefully feel more part of Oxford by attending the program. "I'm definitely more excited now and feel more reassured since I know people and won't be just a stranger in the crowd."