Kennesaw State offers extended orientation option to give first-year students a leg up

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 4, 2021

A group of about 300 of Kennesaw State University’s incoming first-year students are nearing the end of a 12-day preview of the upcoming semester in a new immersive orientation program called Freshman First Flight. They are even working to knock out a core economics course while they’re at it.

First Flight
Taking place on the university’s Marietta campus, participants are taking a class, living in student housing and learning how to navigate Kennesaw State campus life. The agenda is also filled with group activities like the Owl-mazing Race scavenger hunt and field trips like taking in a Braves game.

“The goal is to help these students get a leg up on the freshman experience,” said Alexandra Lyon, KSU director of new student programs. “We want students to feel more connected to campus. We want them to know about resources and how to access them and we just generally want them to feel like they're set up for the fall semester.”

Thomas Morgan, a participant from Ellijay, said he was attracted to the idea of getting a head start on the semester.

“It is letting me kind of ease into things at a little slower pace, and I like that,” Morgan said.

His First Flight roommate, Evan Byrd-Drummings, who is from Madison, said he liked all aspects of the program.

“Everyone here is so friendly and accepting; the class is fun,” Byrd-Drummings said.

Even with dozens of fun group events on the agenda, new friends Alayna McCrary and Christina Nguyen said their favorite part of the Freshman First Flight experience was their Economics 1000 class.

First Flight
On the third day of First Flight, adjunct instructor Tom Garr wandered around the auditorium in the Engineering and Technology Center explaining the concept of inflation. He walked up the center steps, stopping to answer a student question. Later, students sat rapt as he told them a story of a colleague screaming at him on his first morning of work in the frenetic atmosphere of a Wall Street trading office. “There’s a difference between yelling and screaming,” he said. “Later, he asked me if I wanted to go grab a cup of coffee.”

“I like the stories he tells,” McCrary said. “He explains the concepts using real-world examples that make it easy to understand.”

Freshman First Flight was supposed to launch in 2020, but the start was postponed until this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The inaugural Freshman First Flight is also a test flight, and Lyon said this first group of students, along with the faculty, orientation leaders and others will be surveyed to guide improvements to the program going forward.

Program participant Keegan Thottam, of Johns Creek, said he would suggest considering a change in the coursework because of the volume of material that has to be covered in two weeks. Overall, he is a big fan of First Flight.

“The people are great, the professors are awesome, the food is great, the dorms are amazing,” Thottam said. “The way everything is organized and how much care faculty and staff are taking with the students is wonderful. I would recommend the program to anyone.”

– Gary Tanner

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit