Preview keeps campus hopping in the summer
During the academic year, the quad and campus buildings teem with students. The University sees less traffic in the summer, but thanks to Preview, some 350 parents and students traverse the walkways and building corridors each day for seven weeks.
Preview is Illinois State University’s two-day summer orientation and registration program for incoming freshmen. The program gives students the chance to interact with their peers and begin building relationships, meet with their academic advisors, register for classes and interact with faculty and staff.
Mary Jo Fabich, coordinator of Transition and Orientation Services, says Preview began in 1966 because former President Robert Bone wanted to keep the small campus feel while Illinois State was growing into a larger university. “We plan 22 Preview sessions each summer, and I tell people it’s like planning 22 weddings that occur within seven weeks,” Fabich said. “It takes coordination and many meetings to get everyone on the same page.”
Fabich is assisted in getting everyone on that page by the woman she calls “the heart of Preview,” Angie McKinney, the business office manager. They are helped by an assistant business office manager, a student reservation coordinator and one or two graduate assistants.
Every area of campus is involved in some way with the Preview program. Fabich said that bringing everyone together to develop a comprehensive program to welcome new students and their families to Illinois State is one of her favorite parts of the job.
Fabich hires a mix of students for the 20 Preview guide positions. She said they all share the trait of caring about the new students and their families. Fabich noted that their diverse Preview guide staff includes quiet guides, involved guides, energetic guides and guides who have struggled through some classes. The diverse staff allows freshmen to see someone they can relate to in the guide group. “We encourage guides to tell the truth tactfully, and participants appreciate the realistic accounting of life at Illinois State,” Fabich said. “That honesty is really a positive public relations tool for Preview and Illinois State.”
In her 16 years with Preview, Fabich said she has seen many positive changes. “In 1991, students went to Julian Hall to register for classes, where they formed long lines to wait their turn; now they register throughout campus in computer labs in a matter of minutes,” she said. “We also used to group participants in a large room and bring in countless campus representatives to describe their offices and services. Now we have an information fair and a series of conference sessions that allow more time for course and department information, advisement and registration.”
Fabich said while Preview has benefited from evolving technology, getting people to turn off cell phones during sessions is one technology enhancement that has caused Preview staff some challenges. She and her staff have experienced many funny and unexpected situations, such as the ceiling collapsing in a building just 10 minutes before 300 people were due for a session, and the scrambling to find an alternate space and direct everyone to it. One weekend, the Preview Guides decided to go rollerblading, with so many of them sporting scrapes, cuts and bruises that participants said they didn’t realize how tough the Preview guide job really was.
“At the Preview welcome, we started a tradition where parents stand and welcome their student,” Fabich said. “We often get a hello or how are you shouted out. One father, not content with such an average welcome elected to bring his son to the podium and asked him to show off his new tattoo. The son took off his shirt and showed us the tattoo on his back. Then another father stood up and said his son’s tattoo was better and advised him to show everyone. Before the second shirt came off, I ran to the podium and asked everyone to keep their clothes on. Before I finished my request, the audience started yelling for me to show them my tattoo. That is the closest to Jerry Springer I have ever felt.”