Down to Share?
As a Sophomore Resident Assistant, I have gone through Freshman orientation twice. My first time, I was an enthusiastic participant. I loved how everybody was so friendly and eager to meet new people. Relationships, for the most part, formed naturally as we went through activities together. The second time around, I was a facilitator and observer. I saw my residents' excitement when they met a new group of people. Orientation was a blast, but at Carnegie Mellon, the open and inviting vibe dies down dramatically afterward. Don't get me wrong, it definitely still exists, but it's no where near as prevalent and accessible.
For this reason, I teamed up with Ruby He, an Orientation Counselor and communication designer, to create a way to keep the momentum of orientation week going year-round.
A major part of orientation that stuck out to us as something completely different during the rest of the year is the eating situation. During orientation, it is socially acceptable to sit with people you don't know because, well, it's expected you probably don't know most people. Unfortunately, after this fantastic welcoming week is over, sitting with people you don't know becomes unusual. One of the best ways form relationships is through sharing a meal, so how can CMU students meet new people in a natural context if it isn't considered normal?
We have a plan.
After gaining student perspective and making sure this is something our campus really wants, we've come up with a solution: table-sharing. This is a concept that has been attempted in the past, but wasn't too successful. We identified the flaws with the original initiative and are ready to make it better.
First, we have a new name with a clear and quick description.
Next, we want to create "Share Cards" to be placed on each table. These cards will do two things: identify the tables as shareable and provide a relatable ice breaker. The cards will range from goofy questions to topics with more depth.
Finally, we've been working on branding that will be friendly and inviting. Right now, we are leaning toward pushing the bottom design.
This project is still in progress. We have been meeting with the head of dining every step of the way, and are getting close to making it a reality. Our next steps are finalizing designs, creating all necessary material, and reconfiguring furniture in the UC. Once we are ready to introduce it to campus, we hope to have a launch party with free catered food and see our work come to life.