Orientation brings 133 new students to campus

2021 Orientation

Last week, 133 new students made their debut on the University of Minnesota’s campus to attend orientation for their respective programs. The incoming class of 2021 consists of 105 DDS, 21 Dental Hygiene, and seven Dental Therapy students who participated in a hybrid orientation program.

The students began their first day on campus, at the Health Sciences Education Center, where they received a warm welcome from Dean Keith A. Mays, DDS, MS, PhD.

Mays welcomed students into their new profession, confirming that their time in the profession began as soon as they stepped foot on campus this summer.

Throughout his opening remarks, Mays stressed the need for students to continue to be adaptable and resilient, much like they have throughout the application process. “There are a lot of things that we know will happen next week, and a lot of things we don’t yet know,” he explained.

Reflecting on the course of events that transpired over the past two years--including the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the resulting focus on racial and social justice--Mays reminded the new learners of their responsibility to the field and to the communities in which they will practice.

“You are entering the profession in this new phase, and you will be its shepherds,” he said. “You need to think about how you will make your impact in this profession: how many doors you will open for those who come after you, how many kids you will inspire to be oral health professionals.”

He assured students that the profession and the next years of their journey would be challenging, but inspiring. “It’s a great profession,” he said. “It will challenge you and test you, but it will reward you richly, bringing you many joys and much happiness.”

After Mays’s welcome, students heard from Naty Lopez, PhD, MEd, assistant dean of admissions and diversity, equity and inclusion. She shared what she had learned about each class by reviewing their applications. “I read how much COVID affected you, and how you didn’t let it knock you down,” she reflected.

Describing the attributes of each class, Lopez mentioned the cohort’s academic strength, variety of educational backgrounds, volunteer experience and resilience, describing them as pliable like bamboo. “When storms come, bamboo bends with the wind, and it stands up again while sturdy trees are broken down,” she explained. “Your class is pliable and resilient like the bamboo.”

Throughout the two-day orientation, students also learned about administrative and student support information, interprofessional education and more. They also began the process of building community with both new classmates and returning School of Dentistry students. They begin classes over the next few weeks, as they prepare for their futures in dentistry, dental hygiene and dental therapy. They go into their new professions with an exhortation to enjoy their time and do well. As Lopez put it, “We are celebrating you. You are academically prepared, resilient overcomers, compassionate and socially responsible, with indestructive initiative. Your experience will be rich, and you will do well.”