UHD Opening Its Virtual Doors to Freshmen During Gator Gateway
Annual Orientation Welcoming New Students Online
By Mike Emery
Since 2016, the University of Houston-Downtown has welcomed freshman First Time in College Students (FTICs) to campus through Gator Gateway.
The comprehensive orientation program is typically designed to provide students with a preview of college life. In addition to learning about UHD’s administrative processes, students explore the campus and attend college seminars led by the University scholars.
In spite of the pandemic, Gator Gateway continues to greet incoming Gators and prepare them for the next chapter of their academic journeys. This year’s event is providing a virtual welcome to freshmen.
The new format in the “new normal” no doubt presents some challenges, but Eugene Bernard, Director of Student Transition Programs, said that Gator Gateway 2020 captures the energy and spirit of past orientations.
“Everything we're offering to students in a virtual setting this year is new. We have never hosted interactive orientations in an online format until now,” Bernard said. “Many colleges and universities offer an online orientation option to their students amid COVID, however not many have developed the experience offered at UHD.”
According to Bernard, UHD’s orientation combines pre-recorded videos with interactive live sessions that provide students with pertinent information related to their first year of college. Representatives from the five colleges, Financial Aid, Advising, UHD’s Registrar, the Gator Success Center and Career Services are among those who are answering students’ questions during Gator Gateway. They also learn about financial responsibility from TDECU representatives, as well as how to live independently.
Additionally, students attend virtual lectures that provide a preview of what to expect from online classes this fall.
One of the most important aspects of Gator Gateway is providing students with opportunities to connect with peers. Even virtually, they are able to meet future classmates through icebreaker sessions and other activities.
“Gator Gateway is important to FTIC students because it provides an opportunity for the students to build connections with staff, faculty, and peers before the first day of class,” Bernard said. “The information, activities, and events are aimed to ease the student's transition into the university. The goal is to engage our students in the rich culture at UHD so that when the student enters the first day of class, they have a clear sense of life as a Gator.”
Gator Gateway runs through Aug. 11. Each week, the event hosts an incoming class from each of the five UHD colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business, University College, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences & Technology). Approximately 1,800 freshmen are expected to attend Gator Gateway 2020.
“The students’ response to the virtual orientation format has been sensational, to say the least,” Bernard said. “We are ecstatic that our students have adapted to a new form of engagement and have shown just as much energy and interaction as they would in a face to face environment.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.