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Orientation activities get students involved early




The Hays Daily News

The first six weeks of school at Fort Hays State University not only kick off with classes but also with Augustfest. It incorporates everything from freshman orientation to Tiger Impact. Augustfest is a cluster of events, social activities and ways for students to get involved on and connected to campus.

The first main event is PlayFair, which is Thursday at Lewis Field. PlayFair is one giant icebreaker required for freshmen and open to returning students.

"It's one of those events that with the right attitude, it's a great opportunity to meet a ton of people," said coordinator Shana Meyer, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

Last year, more than 800 people attended PlayFair.

"It's almost chilling -- gives you goosebumps to see all that spirit and activity and the connections students are making," Meyer said.

Another big event is orientation, which also is required for freshmen. Its purpose is for freshmen to learn about the changes and  transitions  students will face in college.

The university brings in a keynote speaker, and this year the speaker is Kyle Cease, one of Comedy Central's top upcoming comedians. Cease performed hundreds of college shows and suddenly got debilitating stage fright, so he reassessed his life and now does comedy talks about doing what makes you happy and how to handle stress and change.

"I think he'll be really funny and have a really good message as well," Meyer said.

Cease also will be doing a comedy show Friday for the public.

A newer event on the Augustfest schedule will be Aug. 19. This is only the second year of the Social Excellence Program, where students learn to come out of their shells and what's expected of them in college.

"They learn that who they were in high school isn't who they have to be in college. So it's kind of like a networking type opportunity and a challenge to students at the same time," Meyer said.

The largest event anyone can attend is the Back to School Picnic, where student organizations set up booths and get their names out to new and returning students.

"It's open to the community, all students, faculty and staff. Everyone gets involved in that," Meyer said.  

Adult  Learner Orientation is a smaller event but is important for students who are coming back to school for the first time -- whether they've been gone two or 20 years. It includes information from library orientation to technology orientation.

Other events during Augustfest are put on by several other campus organizations including Intramurals, sorority and fraternity recruitment, Christian Challenge, University Activities Board and Residence Hall Association. Academic departments also host department gatherings.  

"One of the big goals of it is even if there's a social activity, there are goals behind that activity. So we're trying to really get the students engaged with each other, start forming connections not only with their peers but also with services on campus and resources on campus. It's all really part of an overall retention effort to get students involved on campus," Meyer said.