Photo: Students prepare to kayak up the Allegheny River as part of Honors Orientation 2013
By Kelsey Hughes
On a Monday morning in mid-August, the typical buzz of move-in day filled the air; there was a mixture of nervousness and excitement as the freshman class of 2017 moved their belongings into Sutherland West. Students met their roommates for the first time, while families participated in that bittersweet act of setting up their child’s dorm room—a ritual of releasing their child into the next phase of his or her life.
Honors Orientation 2013 sought to orient the students to Pittsburgh and the Honors community—a community of diverse individuals with common curiosity in academic, intellectual, and community-based endeavors. To do this, the University Honors College (UHC) created a two-day intensive itinerary jam-packed with social events, outdoor adventures, and book discussions.
A group of Honors College Ambassadors were there to help facilitate the move-in and welcome students. The Ambassadors are a group of juniors and seniors, all of whom are active participants in the Honors College community—from participating in Brackenridge fellowships to editing one of the UHC’s publications.
After a long day of moving in, the freshmen were invited to enjoy a refreshing treat: Dave and Andy’s ice cream. Students emerged from Sutherland West to participate in an Ice Cream Social and mingled in line while waiting for their first (or fiftieth) encounter with the Pittsburgh favorite. Clusters of students broke off to get to know each other and participate in optional activities, like bingo or karaoke.
The next morning, students awoke early in the morning to start the next big day. Beginning at 8:30 am, a combination of sleepy and excited students convened in Sutherland’s eatery, the Perch, to participate in “Breakfast N’ Books.” After breaking into groups, led by an Honors College Ambassador, they discussed the previously assigned book, Andrew Delbanco’s What College Was, Is, and Should Be. The students discussed their expectations of a liberal arts education and argued whether or not they thought a well-rounded education would benefit them in their long-term goals.
After eggs, pancakes, and orange juice, the freshmen returned to their dorm rooms to grab the materials needed for the rest of the day. Each was about to embark on excursions across Pittsburgh; activities ranged from taking a dance class at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, “geo-caching,” touring Pittsburgh’s cultural district, to visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo, kayaking along the North Shore, and more.
While these honors housing students are like-minded in their interest in academic attainment and intellectual curiosity, the excursions brought students together on a unique level. They reveled in these new life experiences, which hinted at the vastness of their futures and the adventures to come at the University of Pittsburgh.