UCI News

SPOP 2019!

Incoming freshmen and their parents undergo an intensive but fun two-day orientation process

by Sheri Ledbetter, UCI | August 19, 2019
SPOP 2019!
Incoming UCI freshmen learn how to properly execute the Anteaters’ “Zot!” hand gesture at a summer session of the campus’s Student Parent Orientation Program. Steve Zylius / UCI

The UCI Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom was full of eager and nervous incoming freshmen as a T-shirt-clad Mike Knox, director of the center for student leadership, gave a casual but informative welcome: “A key purpose of this Student Parent Orientation Program is to help you define your personal and educational goals. There is so much you can do at UCI – the possibilities are limitless. And you are not alone: There are staff everywhere who want you to succeed.”

Rameen Talesh, dean of students, struck a slightly different note, noting that UCI is the only school in the world with an anteater mascot. “We’re unique! And you should embrace your uniqueness,” he said. “It’s a big institution, but over time it will feel small. When you leave UCI, you will have gone from Anteaters to Ant Leaders.”

Every summer, 160 trained student volunteers usher some 7,000 teens and their parents through 10 two-day SPOP sessions. The students stay overnight in the residence halls (parents attend Day Two only), and their waking hours are spent in academic advising, registering for courses, learning about campus resources and services, and engaging in games and activities intended to build camaraderie.

  1. alt placeholder Mike Knox, director of student life and leadership, welcomes SPOP participants in the UCI Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom. Steve Zylius / UCI
  2. alt placeholder At SPOP’s Anteater Resource Fair, incoming UCI freshmen and their parents learn about the campus’s various student support services and opportunities. Steve Zylius /UCI
  3. alt placeholder Incoming UCI freshmen learn how to properly execute the Anteaters’ “Zot!” hand gesture at a summer session of the campus’s Student Parent Orientation Program. Steve Zylius / UCI
  4. alt placeholder A huge, impromptu game of rock-paper-scissors among SPOP attendees – initiated by a staffer – on the Student Center Terrace gets down to its last few participants. Steve Zylius / UCI
  5. alt placeholder New UCI students enjoy a talent show put on by SPOP staffers on the second day of the orientation program. Steve Zylius / UCI
  6. alt placeholder Exuberant SPOP staffers – all of them student volunteers – crowd the stage at the end of the talent show. Steve Zylius / UCI

“So far, SPOP is cool,” said computer science major Vincent Whizin, of Fallbrook. “It’s a new social environment, and this literally forces you to make new connections, which is good. I’m a little overwhelmed, especially by the academic advising – there’s a lot of information. Other than that, it’s great.”

Among the tips for success: Go to class, develop good study skills, know important dates and deadlines, manage time properly, and talk to your professors. Also: Monitor your mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and participate in campus life. “Getting involved can be terrifying with 36,000 students, but there’s something out there for everyone,” said a SPOP volunteer. “Little by little, you’ll find your path to getting involved.”

Between workshops, events, meals and activities, SPOP staffers – wearing easily identifiable T-shirts – were omnipresent to provide directions, info and a smile. In addition, representatives from various resource offices were on hand to let students and parents know what’s available outside the classroom.

Lakewood native Oscar Torres, who plans to major in economics, said: “Ever since I was a freshman in high school, I wanted to go to UCI. And SPOP really made me feel like I’m part of the school.”

On Day Two, moms and dads got the information they needed and learned about UCI’s parent page. They also got some advice on their level of involvement with children in college.

“In the old days, we would say, ‘Just leave your students here and go; let them figure it out,’” Talesh said. “Now we want to engage parents; your kids need your wisdom and love. But if they call with a roommate problem, don’t immediately come and handle it for them.”

The start of college is, admittedly, a period of adjustment and uncertainty for both students and parents. SPOP is designed to ease that transition. And fittingly, before it was over, the newest members of the Anteater family had officially been taught how to correctly “Zot!”