Ultra Vires


Zoomterview with The Heads of O-Week

Thryn, Branden, and Meruba tell their tale of running a strange O-week 

Earlier this month I (virtually) sat down one-by-one with Orientation Coordinators Branden Cave (2L), Thryn Irwin (2L), and Meruba Sivaselvachandran (2L JD/MBA) to find out more about what running a highly unprecedented O-week entailed. Their answers are compiled below, divulging unexpected positives, behind-the-scenes bumps, and some tentative ideas on giving 1Ls a more normal O-Week experience in January. 

Ultra Vires (UV): What was your first thought when it was announced that orientation was going to be a largely online/hybrid model? 

Branden Cave (BC): It’s going to be challenging. I think one of the concerns we had was that we weren’t too sure what kind of funding we would have this year. Thankfully, we still got a substantial amount of support from the firms, but the nice thing about having online events is that they were a lot less expensive. So from a logistical and financial side, we thought, “okay, this might balance itself out.” 

Thryn Irwin (TI): I knew this year we would have to have a lot more structure to actually get first years to interact with people. I think that was my first thought, that it was going to be more work in some regards to try to keep that same level of community. 

Meruba Sivaselvachandran (MS): I was nervous about being able to do the 1Ls justice. Obviously, we wanted them to have fun, but this was a totally new task. I was also excited about the prospect of this being more challenging and having the freedom to do whatever we saw fit. 

UV: Besides the obvious, what are some ways that you had to change your approach to orientation in order to foster the usual sense of excitement and community in the 1Ls this year?  

BC: Yeah, I think one of the things students are going to hear a lot of times this year is “Oh it was so much better, so different in person last year, you’re missing out on that.” They are missing out and they’re well aware of that, so we had to stay positive and kind of make sure everyone put on a happy face. 

MS: It was different this year because we introduced pods (random groups of 12-13 students from the same Legal Methods class), so we had to change our programming approach knowing that people wouldn’t get to meet as many people. We had to make sure we kept Zoom breakout rooms random and figure out how to keep someone who was completely online engaged and excited about doing more online stuff.  

UV: Were there any unexpected positives or benefits of having the activities online and distanced? 

BC: They didn’t have to commute back to the law school once they’d gone home, so I think there was a bit more attendance from that side. We saw a bit of attrition in attendance from people just not wanting to be on another Zoom call for another hour though. 

TI: Last year, many events were drinking-oriented and I think that kind of pushed some people away, so it was a benefit to reach out to some people who might be interested in a more structured event. 

MS: I think the students had really low expectations [laughs], so it was really nice that the first years were really appreciative, and grateful, and were just happy to be able to have fun and do stuff. Also, we’re hoping it generated more conversations and was less  anxiety-inducing than potentially going out to a mixer, and not knowing anyone going. 

UV: Are there any events that you held for the first time this year that you would love to see introduced again in future orientations or found to have worked better online? 

BC: The SLS held a 1L town hall which gave students the chance to meet the SLS, raise some concerns they already had this year (there was no lack of concerns) and then also get some information on elections. Anything we can use to get more information from the student organizations to the 1Ls is always a good thing. 

TI: I like the idea of pods, and just having 13 people that can move through orientation together, with an instant forced connection, is nice [laughs]. 

MS: I think the upper year mixer was pretty nice, having it online. It forced the upper years and first years to mingle together.  In past years it’s really easy to just congregate with people you already know, so it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and gets you talking to people you wouldn’t normally be talking to. 

UV: Any wise words of advice for 1Ls considering becoming an O-week leader next year or might be interested, but are unsure whether they should do it? 

BC: If we can do what we did in a virtual environment, just imagine what you could do next year when hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, it’s not virtual again. 

TI: I would just say go for it. It can be quite a lot of work, but you have the entire summer for it. It was also really great to work with two other law students for the whole summer. You get to complain about everything together, so do it. 

MS: I would say, if you want to do it, do it because you’re excited about the idea. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and you’ll have a lot of fun with it. 

UV: Anything you want to add that I didn’t address? 

TI: One thing I could mention is that we are tentatively thinking of doing a mini Frost-week. So, if COVID relents, the three of us were thinking of throwing a pub-appetizers-Firkin type event where the first years can have a more orientation type of experience in January. 

These interviews have been condensed for brevity and clarity

How did O-Week look last year? Read about it here.

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