This year, new student orientation and Jack Camp have been adjusted to accommodate for distance learning as a result COVID-19.

Instead of five individual on-campus orientation sessions and an optional Jack Camp in Trinity, the two programs have combined into one four-day program and are offered in person or online starting Sunday. 

“We are combining two beasts of a program, orientation and Jack Camp,” Rhylie Gachot, assistant director of Orientation and Transition Programs, said. “Putting them together and keeping the spirit and traditions of SFA into that as much as possible, while also addressing academic things as well. So it’s kind of an even balance between fun and academics, just like a college student’s experience would be.”

Advising and registration are still included in orientation; but for this semester, online advising was added. Whereas in previous years, orientation leaders took students to meet their advisers during orientation.

“This summer was a two-parter,” Brittany Beck, director of Orientation and Transition Programs, said. “So, the first part was the online advising and course registration. So we allowed them, once they were registered for orientation to go ahead and start talking to their adviser about their degree plan and what classes [to take.]”

The second part is the modified Jack Camp, which is also taking place on campus and virtually. Gachot said the students will be divided into family groups, still with their traditional Austin and Rusk names, to do group activities similar to traditional Jack Camp.

“They [students doing virtual Jack Camp] are still getting the same thing,” Gachot said. “But they’ll be divided up into family groups to do workshops and listen to presentations and hear from guest speakers. It’s just all done virtually.”

Gachot said the virtual Jack Camp does not last all day like in-person will, due to difficulty moving evening events online.

And although there is an in-person Jack Camp option, it will look different than Jack Camps in the past.

“I would probably say, for this Jack Camp, there’s more of the business side of things,” Beck said. “Because normal Jack Camps it’s just all fun, learning the traditions. Like yes, you learn about yourself and you meet other upperclassmen and other incoming new students, but this year we’re going to be incorporating a lot of the orientation business side of things.”

Elizabeth Gonzalez, a sophomore biochemistry major from Carrollton, is a first-time Jack Camp Orientation leader for this semester and has spent the past few days preparing for Sunday.

“I’m super excited to help freshmen not be scared because I know it’s a big transition, especially for those who’ve probably never spent this much time away from their families,” Gonzalez said. “Personally, I’ve been just double checking the GroupMe and making sure I have done everything needed to become a counselor. Online, we had two Zoom meetings to get to know one another, and we also went over a general overview. On Friday, we [had] an in-person training all done in a safe manner.”

Gonzalez said the orientation leaders have a mission to make this orientation safe and memorable for students and hopes students know that freshman year won’t be as scary as it seems.

“The bonds you form here will be so strong because there is a place for everyone to feel at home,” Gonzalez said.

There will also be virtual orientation programs for parents and an in-person camp, Destination SFA, for middle- and high-school aged siblings.

The virtual orientation for parents will take place on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parents will be divided into their student’s college and will hear presentations from their student’s dean, as well as campus dignitaries, the School of Honors, Financial Aid and President Scott Gordon will make an appearance at all six college presentations.

The presentations will be both live on Zoom and recorded for parents who are unable to attend.

Destination SFA will also be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and will have in-person and online options. This program helps middle school and high school siblings start thinking about college and get SFA on their minds, Gachot said.

“Middle school students will get to adventure to the Campus Rec to do a little, mini version of Little Jack Rec Camp,” Gachot said. “So, they get to hang out and kind of see the facilities over there at Campus Rec, while our high school students are doing a career exploration with our Center of Career and Professional Development.”

Online Destination SFA will include a Zoom with counselors and CCPD. Little Jack Rec Camp will not be included online.


Meredith Janning has worked on The Pine Log since her second semester at Stephen F. Austin. During her time at The Pine Log, Meredith has held the positions of staff writer and news editor.

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