PSU Orientation: Nurturing Belonging and Transformative Learning
PSU Orientation: Nurturing Belonging and Transformative Learning
Plymouth State University (PSU) provides students with powerful opportunities to explore their passions and engage in transformative learning experiences, ultimately paving the way for careers of purpose. A cornerstone of this commitment lies in the comprehensive orientation experiences that connect students within their community. These initiatives, choreographed through the Student Experience Office, which is a part of Student Life, begin from the moment new Panthers step foot on campus.
Orientation programming is intentionally crafted to guide students toward a sense of belonging and connection as they embark on their college journey. It begins with an online module that acquaints students with the PSU community’s shared values, setting the stage for in-person experiences in June. Hundreds of new students participate in their first overnight stay on campus, forging bonds with fellow students and establishing connections with dedicated faculty and staff. This immersive experience creates a foundation upon which students can build lasting relationships.
Jonah Rosenberg in a Plymouth State shirt
Jonah Rosenberg ’24. John Tully photo.
Returning students serve as orientation leaders, who help usher new Panthers through their transition to campus. Jonah Rosenberg ’24, a political science major, explains, “My first experience at PSU was at Orientation and I learned probably the best piece of advice; growth doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. From being in Orientation, to being an orientation leader, I constantly pushed myself into my growth zone and it has been one of the best things I have ever done! I used to be afraid of things outside my comfort zone, now I know they are opportunities for growth.”

PSU’s commitment to student well-being is reflected in Panther Days orientation at the start of the fall semester. Panther Day sessions promote self-reflection and social responsibility across various critical areas. Topics like diversity and equity, mental health, substance use, and healthy relationships are addressed through educational sessions. By engaging students in these discussions, PSU strives to cultivate responsible and compassionate individuals who contribute positively to their communities.

Research has increasingly highlighted the profound role of social connection and a sense of belonging in the learning process (Bentrim & Henning, 2022; Fivush, 2022; Fredrickson, 2013; Lieberman, 2014). PSU’s Student Life Team recognizes this significance and provides students with numerous opportunities to connect and develop as compassionate, active citizens. With an average of 1,600 programs and events hosted each academic year through Student Life, students have ample opportunities to explore unique co-curricular and leadership experiences that align with their interests and passions.

screen grab of a Plymouth State Move-In-Day video
Understanding that establishing connections as a new student can be daunting, Student Life recently launched the Pemi’s Pals program. This initiative enables new students to connect with experienced students who accompany them to various on-campus experiences. From shared meals at Prospect Dining Hall to workouts at the Fitness Center, club and organization meetings, and campuswide events, Pemi’s Pals is a supportive network helping students navigate the transition into university life.

Above all, the Student Life Team is committed to nurturing a caring and connected community that facilitates personal and professional growth, striving to ensure that every student feels seen, valued, and loved. By fostering safe and brave spaces for exploration and connection, students are empowered to thrive both academically and personally.

Skylar Hammes in a Plymouth State University shirt
Skylar Hammes ’27. Sam Taksar ’25 photo.
Skylar Hammes ’27, a first-year accounting major, beautifully described her Orientation experience. “As a first-generation college student, Plymouth not only welcomed me and eased my uncertainties, but also inspired my creativity and ambition. The opportunities available have nourished my character and my academic endeavors. I feel welcomed by the compassionate community, campus, and the never-ending stream of role models I cross paths with.”

PSU’s dedication to welcoming and nurturing its first-year and transfer students is a testament to its commitment to providing a transformative education. By focusing on orientation experiences, fostering a sense of belonging, and providing diverse opportunities for engagement, PSU equips students with the tools they need to succeed. In this close-knit community, every student finds their place and begins their journey toward a career of purpose. ■ Jessica Dutille ’03, ’04MBA, ’20EdD