Orientation welcomes 134 new learners to School of Dentistry

Learners talk at a table during orientation

The School of Dentistry welcomed 134 new clinical learners to campus last week for an in-person orientation experience, the first fully in-person orientation since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The incoming learners include 105 members of the DDS Class of 2026, 8 members of the Master of Dental Therapy Class of 2025, and 21 members of the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Class of 2024.

Dean Keith Mays addresses learners at orientation

Learners were welcomed to campus—and to their professional lives—by Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD.

“You are an important part of the overall team that keeps people healthy,” he said. “I want you to see that, recognize that, and do everything that you can do to make that happen. There are people who need you.”

Mays encouraged learners to familiarize themselves with their classmates, noting that they would become friends, colleagues and supporters to one another.

Students play tug-of-war at orientation

Recalling a moment when classmates helped him prepare for a difficult exam, Mays stressed the need to care for one another and check in, working collaboratively to become the best oral health professionals they can be, together.

“Look at the people at your table. Look at the people at the tables near you,” he encouraged students. “You are in this together. I want you to walk with each other, help each other. And if you get helped, help someone else. It will be challenging, but you will do it together.”

Learners also heard from Elham Akhlaghi, DDS, interim director of admissions, who provided a snapshot of the makeup of each class and reminded them of what they had accomplished to get to this point.

Close up of student taking notes at orientation

“I’m so happy to see these bright, excited, relieved faces,” she said. “I'm thrilled to introduce you to the University of Minnesota, and to each other.”

Speakers from the Office of Student and Resident Affairs provided an overview of class schedules, logistical information and wellness support, while faculty introduced them to the interprofessional nature of the University of Minnesota and what being a School of Dentistry student looks like.

Current students take new students on a tour of the health sciences buildings

Members of the upper class provided tours of the Health Sciences Education Center and Moos Tower to learners, answering questions and familiarizing them with the spaces they will call home for the next several years.

Finally, learners engaged in team building activities and celebrated the launching of their dental school journeys and, ultimately, their professional careers.

We offer our sincere congratulations and a warm welcome to the incoming classes of DDS, Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy learners, whose classes begin this and next month.

Students take part in teambuilding activities at orientation