As of the fall 2020 semester, JMU’s schedule will include a fall break along with a full week off for Thanksgiving, but there’s a catch: 1787 August Orientation — more commonly known as FROG week — will shrink from four or five days to two or three.
Vice President of Student Affairs Tim Miller said the decision was made due to several factors. From faculty, staff and students complaining about the lack of a fall break to the research Miller said he and others compiled to determine if a fall break would benefit the JMU community, there were many discussions before the decision was made.
“We went through a lot of different iterations before we ended up at, ‘If you started three days early, you could then buy the days to use later to do a fall break,’” Miller said.
Miller said a deciding factor was that before college, students have typically never gone 12 weeks straight in K-12 school without some sort of break from academia.
“What we’ve seen as a change, and not only the calendar and how it plays out, but also in our students, [is] that 12 straight weeks of classes — it’s just a really long time,” Miller said. “It’s a really long haul for students, for faculty, for staff, everybody to go that long.”
Sarah Sunde, director of JMU’s orientation professional staff, expressed optimism toward the idea of compressing 1787 August Orientation. Sunde said the first-year transition isn’t a singular event but rather a process.
For example, Sunde said that for most first-year students, skills such as learning how to use punches, operating the bus system and forming effective study habits aren’t tested until after orientation.
“Your transition shouldn’t just be done with 1787,” Sunde said. “Our hope is that we’ll be able to use this as an opportunity to really rethink and look at this transition process not just as five days but as an opportunity to look into the first semester.”
Junior sports and recreation management major Jensen Kenney was a First yeaR Orientation Guide this past August and said she wasn’t surprised when she heard about 1787 becoming shorter.
While Kenney said she enjoyed her FROG experience, she mentioned that it was “exhausting.” For her, being a FROG meant having dozens of blisters on her feet and working over 12 hours a day for a week.
“It was worth it to, like, be able to help the first years and everything, but it was kind of draining to have an entire week of, you know, 14- to 15-hour days,” Kenney said.
Sunde said FROG responsibilities will change significantly with the shorter August Orientation. While Sunde said the orientation office is still figuring out the logistics of a new strategy for this stage of orientation, she proposed the idea of developing programs throughout the fall semester to guide the first-year students when appropriate on topics like finding buildings on campus and developing healthy study habits.
“1787, in general, was so much information. Like, how in the world could you remember everything that we’re sharing, and so we can do it in bite-sized pieces, and we can think about readiness,” Sunde said. “So when are students ready, when do they need information?”
Sunde emphasized that this reworking of 1787 August Orientation will require more education and awareness about the role FROGs will play in the lives of first-year students. Kenney said she believes these new guidelines will help eliminate FROGs that “disappear” after orientation.
“[FROGs] will need to be more involved and engaged and invested the entire first year,” Sunde said. “But, that quality there is going to actually enhance and better the new student experience.”
Contact Katelyn Waltemyer at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.