‘Bearings’ to replace ‘Choices’ as freshman orientation program

For Washington University students not in the class of 2019, the night before orientation probably brings whispers of “choices, choices, choices” to your head.

“Choices” was a long-standing, hour-long play performed at freshman orientation (better known as Bear Beginnings) exploring all of the choices students might face during their college careers.

This fall, the oft-referenced “Choices” will be replaced by “Bearings,” a much shorter video that addresses similar issues, in an effort that the First Year Center hopes will reduce overlap with other orientation events.

The 17-minute long video follows a fictional freshman named Grace and her group of three friends as they attempt to navigate their freshman year at Washington University. The video shows each of Grace’s friends in different situations that freshmen are likely to encounter in college, such as overcommitment, alcohol use and abuse, the rules and expectations of a community, and mental health and how you can treat it.

This year’s Bear Beginnings will be the first in nearly 15 years to proceed without the theatrical “Choices.” Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Rob Wild was part of the team that revamped Bear Beginnings and instituted “Bearings.”

“We used to try and cover everything that happens [at college] in ‘Choices’…even decision-making around Internet relationships,” Wild said.

Wild said “Choices” had become a little redundant, so in an effort to convey the most important information in the most effective manner to freshmen, the First Year Center began reforming the programming. The reform ultimately led to this year’s Bear Beginnings orientation featuring three events that students will attend with their Residential Colleges: “Our Names, Our Stories,” which addresses diversity; “The Date,” which addresses sexual assault; and “Bearings.”

Washington University alumnus John Schmidt, writer and co-director of “Bearings,” explained the importance of “Bearings” during orientation.

“[Bearings] serves to welcome new students not only to their residential communities and the values that are held in that community, but also the academic and social communities,” Schmidt said. “I hope that ‘Bearings’ will leave [freshmen] with knowledge of the resources that are in place to help them and also to help welcome them into the community that is Wash. U.”

Over the summer, “Bearings” has undergone scrutiny and testing by Residential College directors, resident advisers and Washington University Student Associates, with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

“[‘Bearings’] really allowed ‘Our Names, Our Stories’ to focus on what…it mean[s] to live in a diverse and inclusive community. It really allows ‘The Date’ to focus on intimacy, relationships and relationship violence, and it really allows ‘Bearings’ to focus on community standards, traditions and expectations in a…smaller, centralized way at the Residential College level,” Wild said.

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Alex SiegmanComment