Spring / printemps 2013

The YMCA and the Origins of Freshman Orientation Programs

Dorothy E. Finnegan
The College of William and Mary
Nathan F. Alleman
Baylor University
Published April 1, 2013
  • Student Orientation,
  • YMCA Student Associations,
  • Colleges and Universities,
  • Student Groups
How to Cite
Finnegan, Dorothy E., and Nathan F. Alleman. 2013. “The YMCA and the Origins of Freshman Orientation Programs”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 25 (1). https://doi.org/10.32316/hse/rhe.v25i1.4289.


Most insightful historical work pinpoints the rise of freshman orientation programs in the mid 1920s as one instance of administrative specialization emerging to fill the advising and socialization void left by faculty taken with academic particularization.  Although the press of the historical moment is indeed relevant, institutionalized freshman orientation did not emerge in the historical moment of the 1920s sans progenitor.  Rather, specific students sensed the needs of their peers and acted upon their intuition much earlier as a latent orientation function of their manifest religious intent.  This research illustrates the lineage of freshman events and college socialization interventions that accumulated over several decades and demonstrates that they were initiated originally by students themselves, specifically through the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Student Associations found across the United States and many parts of Canada.