Employee Spotlight



Kelly Dunn, director of New Student Orientation & Support Programs

051414kdunnWhile still considered a “newbie” at Johnson & Wales University, Kelly Dunn, director of New Student Orientation & Support Programs, is gearing up to welcome nearly 2,500 new students during New Student Orientation this summer into the JWU family. With a total of 13 sessions before fall term begins, she and her staff have their hands full. But it’s all worth it.
“Orientation is about setting the foundation for what we, Johnson & Wales, are going to provide, but also what the student is going to have to do here to be successful,” said Dunn, who joined JWU in November 2013. “It’s a relationship. They’re not only learning the college way, they’re learning the JWU way. Our programs help students make this institution their home.”
Orientation leaders are key players in the success of the program. This year, New Student Orientation & Support Programs is working with 30 student orientation leaders, five student orientation assistants and two parent assistants. Dunn describes what it’s like being an orientation leader. “It’s a lot of work. Sessions are long. It might be session nine for the orientation leader, but it’s the first day for that new group of students. Our leaders set the foundation for what the student experience will be like here.”
As an orientation leader herself while an undergrad at Emmanuel College, she understands first-hand how important that first-year experience can be. “I transferred into Emmanuel my sophomore year,” she said. “I had a really hard first year at another institution and once arriving on Emmanuel’s campus, I felt like I was home. It became important to me to make sure other students had a better first year than mine.”
Planning for New Student Orientation starts two years in advance. Dunn mentioned that she’s already reviewing the summer of 2016 calendar. She and her staff continually look for new ways to facilitate the transition and integration of new students and families into the JWU community. New for this year is a one-day session offered to transfers, veterans and returning learners who may not necessarily need to adjust to the college lifestyle, but will help them adjust to the university. Soon, an online version of New Student Orientation, piloted on the Providence Campus in the 2013-2014 academic year, will be rolled out universitywide.
In addition to her colleagues Beth O’Day, associate director of New Student Orientation & Support Programs; Heather Kessler, assistant director of New Student Orientation & Support Programs; and Nancy Hardendorf, director of parent relations, an additional 200 staff and faculty are necessary to execute a successful orientation session. Dunn noted that “it’s truly the hard work, creativity and passion of my staff that leads the charge to welcome new students and their families.”
Prior to Dunn’s start at JWU, she held positions in enrollment management, academic advising and residence life at both private and community college institutions. She ended by saying, “You can see when a student becomes comfortable. The development and transformation of a student during his or her first year is pretty incredible.”
Summer orientation starts on Monday, June 23. Let’s help Dunn give a Wildcat welcome to the incoming class of 2014 and their families.