“Premiere DePaul is the gateway experience for new, traditional-aged first-year students. This is their initial introduction to the mission of the university and it is the first official time they are welcomed into the family,” says Associate Vice President of Student Development in Student Affairs, Peggy Burke.
Premiere DePaul is a two-day, overnight mandatory orientation program for freshmen. Students learn about the university by attending information sessions, participating in small and large group activities with current and fellow students, and spending the night in a residence hall.
Burke explains that the aim of orientation is to bridge the student’s experience from high school to college. She says Premiere demarcates the end of the high school experience and transitions into the beginning of the college experience in a memorable way.
“Orientation shouldn’t just be transactional,” says Burke. “We’re very intentional about helping students with academic planning and understanding the curriculum, but then also understanding the mission and our values, history and traditions.”
Before Premiere was created in 1990, orientation consisted of a one-day program where students would come in and receive academic advising and register for courses on two separate days throughout the summer. Burke said combining academic advising and registration, as well as using peer mentors to help new students make connections with current students, is what changed everything.
“We received tremendous support from all the colleges and it’s really been a collaborative effort ever since. Students don’t divide their lives into separate experiences,” says Burke. “Having an orientation that combines a number of factors allows us to introduce the university to them in a seamless way and they could see that their experience at DePaul is not limited to the classroom but that it is holistic.”
Peggy says this overall, extensive experience was also considered a best practice in the field at the time. Premiere was the brain child of a committee chaired by Burke and a colleague along with representatives from each college and key support offices.
Over time, the program has been adjusted and now includes performances by DePaul’s Educational Theatre Company, which informs students of important issues that happen on campus in a creative way. In addition, Academic Affairs works with each of the colleges to create innovative introductions and overviews about each respective college and its majors. There are also team-building activities at the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center to help students connect to each other. Burke says a much stronger parent orientation was also created in an effort to recognize parents as a significant component of student success.
“All of our developments over the years have come out of one central goal: we want students to leave this experience with a stronger sense of identity – the identity of a DePaul student,” says Burke.