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Abstract: Context: In 2016, the University of Newcastle's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment set out to reinvent its orientation program. The objective of the project was to improve early student engagement and retention. Encouraged by practices observed through international competitor benchmarking, particularly in the United States, the Faculty sought to create an inspiring and interactive orientation experience that would truly engage students and give them a sense of efficacy, empowerment and relevance as they commenced their studies.

Purpose: To report on changes to the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, University of Newcastle, orientation day format as part of a re-evaluation of our programs and importantly our student onboarding process.

Approach: 2016 Orientation introduced two new sessions to the day - named Inspire and Interact. The inspiration for these sessions was based on studies of international universities. The day also had a central theme of 'Be Part of the Solution', which drew together the commonalities of the Faculty's degrees in architecture, construction management, computer science, engineering and industrial design. The theme was also intended to leverage the inclinations of the incoming generation of students, who commonly express a desire to make a positive difference in the world. It also reflects the Faculty's strategic direction for both research and education, which aligns our programs with solving the major challenges - present and future - we face as a society.

The Inspire session featured a series of live presentations and videos from graduates ranging from start-up entrepreneurs, to humanitarian engineers, travelling architects, to CSIRO leaders, to PhD students and a young engineering alumni who works for Disney. The intention was to show the students a spectrum of the unpredictable and exciting possibilities that their degree might lead to - challenging the assumptions they might hold about the Engineering and Built Environment professions. It is hoped this sense of possibility and potential will mitigate the doubts some students experience as they actually commence their studies and wonder whether they are on the right path. Inspire was followed by the Interact session, which engaged the students in a hands-on problem solving activity. The students worked in groups that were deliberately randomised to mix disciplines and encourage new friendships. The activity was simple enough to ensure that students could solve it quickly, but open enough to allow students to develop an infinite range of solutions of varying levels of sophistication.

Results: It is anticipated that a more hands on orientation coupled with reinforcement of career and professional goals through inspiring role models will improve retention. Early indications from university enrolment data indicate a slightly positive effect. Further research and activity in this area will be required to confirm early indications.

Conclusions: In this paper, the authors will share their experience of designing and implementing this program, including the challenges they faced, the outcomes, and their reflections on what they would do differently next time. They will also share insights from their benchmarking observations and their early findings on how the project has impacted retention.

To cite this article: McBride, Bill; Downing, Natalie and Pring, Ruth. UONinspire: Reinventing orientation [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 538-544. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=697542356247572;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 27 Jul 17].

Personal Author: McBride, Bill; Downing, Natalie; Pring, Ruth; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 538-544. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Orienteering; Student activities; Inspiration; Universities and colleges--Vocational guidance; University of Newcastle; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) University of Newcastle, Australia, email: Bill.McBride@newcastle.edu.au
(2) University of Newcastle, Australia, email: Natalie.Downing@newcastle.edu.au
(3) University of Newcastle, Australia, email: Ruth.Pring@newcastle.edu.au

Database: Engineering Collection