‘Cane Kickoff ushers in new generation of UM students

Freshmen students dance with Sebastian at the annual Toppel Fest during 'Cane Kickoff. Photo credit: Cameron Tavakoly

Freshman Julia Mcaleavy arrived in Miami and was greeted by warm weather and an enthusiastic staff ready for move-in. Mcaleavy, along with the rest of the class of 2023, got settled into the freshman dorms this past week. Amid Target runs, first looks at their home for the next four years and goodbyes to parents, freshmen made their way through their first few days on campus.

As students began to adjust to their new home, ‘Cane Kickoff began with ‘Canes Take Flight in the Watsco Center, where President Julio Frenk addressed welcomed new students and parents. President Frenk encouraged students to make the most of their time at the U.

“Strive to make a difference on campus by being a leader, even in quiet ways. Your leadership and impact will create a legacy that will connect you to the Hurricane community forever,” Frenk said.

Following the event, freshmen were ushered  through a few jam-packed days of orientation meetings, informational sessions and social events to help new ‘Canes learn more about the U and better prepare themselves for the semester ahead.

Together, orientation groups attended various sessions aimed at helping students make the most of their first semester at UM. These sessions covered topics from alcohol education to mental health awareness.

Freshmen students dance with Sebastian at the annual Toppel Fest during ‘Cane Kickoff. Photo credit: Cameron Tavakoly

Samantha Fagan, a sophomore majoring in political science and anthropology, said she enjoyed her first year as an orientation fellow. Compared to her own orientation last year, Fagan said “the events were more engaging and more relevant.” Even though many of the same topics were covered in the information sessions, Fagan said she feels that the administration did a better job of gearing ‘Cane Kickoff 2019 towards students.

However, Fagan reported various issues she and her floor of freshmen girls had with orientation’s coverage of sexual assault.

“Most of the students thought that it was not taken seriously,” Fagan said. Her orientation group had a long discussion after the event talking about their concerns with how both the content was displayed and how other students behaved during the session.

The session mostly covered scenarios of what to do if something happens, but students expressed concern to Fagan wishing that the event had “included how to prevent something from happening, how to spot red flags and examples of the different types of sexual harassment and assault,” Fagan said.

In addition to the mandatory orientation information session that covered topics of sexual assault, all incoming students are required to complete an online course about alcohol education and sexual assault prevention.

Outside of mandatory orientation events, students had the chance to attend sessions on more specific topics such as study abroad or greek life. Tommy Glyman, a freshman from Illinois, said he appreciated the variety of topics covered in orientation week. Through these sessions, students were able to tailor their orientation schedule to their own interests or relevant areas of focus. However, both freshman Mcaleavy and freshman Mickey Carton found the schedule too busy and a bit overwhelming.

Carton agreed that while orientation was fun and helped her get acclimated, the schedule seemed very demanding.

“I would have liked more time to get settled in,” Carton said.

After attending their mandatory orientation sessions for the day, freshmen students wind down at HP Productions’ Canes After Dark event. Photo credit: Cameron Tavakoly

During free time, Carton and her new-found friends explored the city, looking for frozen yogurt places and things to do around Miami. Carton, originally from New York City, said she chose UM to get the perks of living in another urban, multicultural environment. Due to busy orientation schedules and the hectic nature of moving in, Carton said her time to discover the city was cut short.

“I would have liked more time to explore,” she said.

For those that chose to spend more time on campus, UM provided several social events to help students engage with their fellow classmates and have some fun after hours of listening to various speakers and presentations. Throughout ‘Cane Kickoff, students had the chance to attend morning yoga sessions, Zumba classes and celebrations at both the Wellness Center and Toppel.

Hurricane Productions hosted multiple events during the week as well, including a night featuring a hypnotist at the Watsco Center, which Glyman said was really cool to see at a college campus.

To conclude ‘Cane Kickoff 2019, students attended CaneFest in the Watsco Center and Fieldhouse, where over 200 student organizations were tabling to recruit new members. Several students said this was the most helpful part of the entire orientation experience.

“CaneFest was the best because it showed us everything going on in one convenient spot,” Carson said. “I’m more of a visual person, so rather than listening to a million people talk, I liked looking at all the posters.”

Mcaleavy said CaneFest helped her learn about clubs that would align with her health studies major and plans for medical school.

Besides tons of free merchandise and useful information, students agreed that ‘Cane Kickoff helped cool their nerves for the first day of classes and upcoming semester.

“Orientation made me feel more prepared because it gave me a week to figure my stuff out before I went into classes,” Glyman said.