Students gather for restriction-free orientation

Courtesy of Alaina Baker | Amandalynne Davis (assistant orientation director) and Zach Mansberry (orientation director) pose for a picture at the end of Orientation Week festivities.

Alicia Dye | New Editor

Aug. 25, 2022

Duquesne University navigated its way through its first Orientation Week without any Covid-19 restrictions for the first time since August 2019.

From the mini student expo to epic bingo, all events were held in-person with no Covid restrictions interrupting all the events from happening. Students were not required to wear masks or to social distance at any event.

Orientation Director Zach Mansberry wanted to return 2022’s orientation to one he has fond memories of, the 2019 orientation — the last orientation event without Covid-19 restrictions.

“When I was a freshman, I had the best experience with orientation,” Mansberry said. “I wanted to give that kind of experience to the class of 2026.”

Orientation in 2020 was held almost completely on Zoom, with any in-person events happening with masks and with social distancing being enforced. Orientation in 2021 had less restrictions, but all the indoor events required masks and social distancing was strongly encouraged.

“2020 orientation was not productive. We tried to hold events outside when we could, but it was not always possible,” Mansberry said.

Even with Covid cases on the decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid data tracker, some of the orientation staff still felt uncomfortable about returning.

“The past two years have been hard on staff,” Mansberry said. “We had a lot of people leave and ended up being short staffed because of Covid. We only had 160 or so team leaders this year.”

Assistant Director Amandalynne Davis is part of the class of 2024, who experienced orientation during the height of Covid-19, and knew the impact it had on her experience.

“I missed out on a lot during my orientation,” Davis said. “This year, we wanted to really connect with the freshmen and create happy moments for them, especially after the last two years.”

Davis and Mansberry wanted to give their all to the estimated 1,500 freshmen that came to Duquesne, and so did all the orientation team leaders. To make sure they gave their all, the team leaders went in with a positive attitude.

“We went in with the attitude of ‘Let’s do this,’ and it worked out in the best way possible. We kept that attitude for all of the orientation events,” Mansberry said.

Even with the positive attitude, there were some Covid worries among the orientation staff and among freshmen.

“We were incredibly concerned about the staff getting Covid,” Mansberry said. “We’re always in close contact with the freshmen, but we let people do what was comfortable to them.”

Davis made sure everyone was comfortable with what they were doing and made sure events were spaced out to limit the amount of time everyone was in contact.

“Our main concern was move-in. We staggered things out and tried to comfort everybody, parents, students and, of course, our team,” Davis said. “We had an open door policy regarding Covid. If someone asked us to wear a mask, we would. We wanted to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible.”

Since Aug. 19, there have only been eight Covid cases reported on campus, according to the university’s Covid Health and Safety dashboard. Allegheny County has a seven-day moving average of 344 cases, according to the Allegheny County Covid dashboard.

Even with high Covid numbers within Allegheny County, orientation was a massive success. There were plenty of events for all the incoming freshmen, including the popular Graffiti Dance.

“The Graffiti Dance is always so popular. Doing it with Covid restrictions was hard,” Mansberry said. “Luckily, this year, we could throw out all the Covid handbooks that we followed for the past two years.”

Team leader Grace Scanlon loved seeing how much fun the freshmen had throughout the week.

“There were so many different events that they could go to, like the Graffiti Dance, Marvel Trivia Night, Epic Bingo and more,” Scanlon said. “It was so nice to see all of the freshmen running around, making new friends and having fun. It made me so happy to see all of that, especially after the last two years.”

Davis, who will be the director of orientation next year, encourages anyone who loves orientation to join.

“I joined because I loved my Orientation, and that was during the height of Covid,” Davis said. “I really think anyone with any major who loves Orientation should join. It’s a really great experience, and you meet a lot of great people.”

Scanlon, who is also a resident assistant for freshmen, got to know her own residents better than ever before because of Orientation.

“Connecting with my residents and others in general has been hard because of the pandemic,” Scanlon said. “I got to meet and interact with so many different people. Getting to meet my residents and bond with them without Covid barriers was so refreshing.”

Davis said that she hopes next year will be even bigger,” and that they will hopefully “still be able to have all these events without restrictions.”

“We’re already starting to plan, and we could not be more excited for it.”