NewsJun 27, 2019

We’re all in this together

Threshold Program students join in orientation for the first time

Students standing outside on the quad in a circle on a sunny summer day

Lesley’s annual summer orientation for incoming undergraduates enjoyed the company of some new faces this year.

For the first time in Threshold Program history, Threshold students participated in the orientation festivities, everything from ice breakers to information sessions.

“It was a great opportunity for our students in the same way that it’s great for traditional undergraduates – it gives them exposure to campus and gets some of the jitters out,” said Threshold Associate Director Cara Gorham Streit.

Threshold is a groundbreaking, two-year, non-degree postsecondary program for students with diverse learning, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nineteen of the incoming Threshold students participated in the June 17 and 18 orientation, and they were excited to get involved and make campus connections.

Student standing outside in a circle holding a beach ball on a sunny summer day
Students participated in games and activities as they learned more about life at Lesley.

“The students thought it was great and they seemed so happy,” said Threshold Administrative Coordinator Tim Cusack. “They made a bunch of friends and they feel like they’re a part of the group."

Inclusive introductions and community-building

Each year at orientation, new students have the chance to tour campus, make new friends, create their schedules and learn about the many ways to get involved at Lesley as they stay overnight and experience college life on a smaller scale.

“I think having a summer orientation with the undergraduate students helped show our students that they are very much part of the Lesley community.”
Susanne Carter, Threshold Director of Residence Life and Student Services

In the past, Threshold students had their own orientation at the beginning of September as they moved in to their dorms.

“When they all meet each other on move-in day and their families are there, there’s less of an opportunity for things like icebreakers and social games to happen,” said Streit.   

“At summer orientation, they hit the ground running, exchanging phone numbers and joking with each other,” Cusack observed. “In the fall, that takes a little bit more nurturing and time. They were outgoing with other students and socialized in situations where they tend to be more shy.”

Streit praised university administration, particularly Assistant Dean of Student Life Felecia Bumpus, Chief Diversity Officer Lilu Barbosa and Director of Threshold Operations Joanne Silva, for their critical support to incorporate Threshold into orientation at long last.

Photo of people standing on a large map of the Boston subway system
Part of Threshold student orientation included some rides on the MBTA, greater Boston's transportation system.

“Threshold student inclusion on campus has been one of the targets of the President’s Committee for Inclusive Excellence for the last year,” she said.  “We’ve been looking for more ways for Threshold students to feel more genuinely and naturally included with undergraduate students, and we were also looking for our students to be able to take undergrad classes this year, so we decided to just take on everything all at once.”

A family affair

The orientation program, called Lynx Orientation, offers three separate opportunities in June to come to campus and stay overnight. Incoming students are split into teams and their daily activities are coordinated by trained undergraduate Orientation Leaders, who are also charged with facilitating team-building and answering questions about Lesley.

“In this day and age, students of all abilities are together through high school, and for the most part, students coming into college have been around peers of all different types of diversity all along,” said Streit. “For the incoming undergrads and for the Threshold students, it totally makes sense.”

The inclusivity extended to Threshold parents, who had the opportunity to participate in information sessions as well as a panel discussion specifically designed for the program where Threshold alumni parents fielded questions and spoke about their experiences.

“I think parents really felt like a part of the community,” said Streit, who was also Threshold’s first director of Alumni Programs. “New parents were able to ask alumni parents about what they went through and they loved that. It was nice because the staff can reassure them all we want, but it’s that much better to hear it from someone who’s gone through it.”

With orientation behind them, Threshold students are staying connected to new friends via text and social media, and looking forward to the fall.

“I think having a summer orientation with the undergraduate students helped show our students that they are very much part of the Lesley community,” said Threshold Director of Residence Life and Student Services Susanne Carter. “We’ll continue to encourage our students to get involved with Lesley clubs and student organizations, attend events on campus with the undergraduate students, and audit more Lesley undergraduate classes.”