Welcome Week: Six Feet Apart, but Together at Heart

The Fall semester’s social distancing theme is displayed in chalk drawings at Kilcawley Center. Photo courtesy of Carrie Anderson

By Douglas M. Campbell

Feelings of caution and excitement fill the air as students and staff return to campus for the first time since March. This semester’s theme for Welcome Week is appropriately called “Six Feet Apart, but Together at Heart.” 

Carolyn Jesko, assistant director of programming, said flexibility was key in planning for the events over the summer.

“We’ve adjusted our plans for Welcome Week quite a bit. We have plans A, B or C depending on the circumstances this semester,” she said.

Tie-dye mask stations, build-your-own-terrariums and an outdoor movie are the top in-person events planned for Welcome Week. “Joker” was the first outdoor movie selected by students, shown Aug. 16 at Heritage Park. 

Several measures are being taken to ensure that Welcome Week festivities are run safely and efficiently. 

The Fall semester’s social distancing theme is displayed in chalk drawings at Kilcawley Center. Photo courtesy of Carrie Anderson

“We will have students sign up in advance for events and we’ll have two people limited to a station at those designated times,” Jesko said.

The Student Organization Fair will also be held during Welcome Week. Carrie Anderson, associate director of Student Activities, said the event is still on but under new accommodations. 

“[The Student Organization Fair] will be in the campus core like normal, but with a much larger area footprint. Tables will be spaced out with a reduced number of students allowed to work it,” said Anderson. 

Erin Driscoll, executive director of student experiences and residence life, reflected on the reorganization of IGNITE, the extended orientation for freshmen which took place just before Welcome Week. 

“In the past we have had large scale events. This year we [gave] each student a one-on-one experience for an hour with our student leaders,” Driscoll said. 

Brooke Schaefers, a senior biology major and an IGNITE intern, has worked with the program for three years. 

“Our staff watched training videos to prepare. We are prepared to handle any situation that may arise and ensure safety guidelines are followed,” said Schaefers.

IGNITE traditionally occurs over a two-day period, but ran for four days from Wednesday to Saturday before classes began. 

“We [provided] a class-find tour with students to help them better navigate the campus. Due to online classes, we have also identified spots where students can plug in and work on campus,” Driscoll said.

The tour included stops to assist students with the upcoming semester. Students took pictures for their Y Cards, stopped by the campus’ bookstore, and had help ordering parking passes.  

“We really wanted to tailor that hour to helping students feel comfortable and confident and ready to start the fall semester,” Driscoll said.

Anderson said students will meet for the Student Leadership Summit, which will be newly online and hosted through Webex on Aug. 21. Students will attend live sessions at the conference based on what they want to learn. 

“We will answer students’ burning questions on how they can operate their clubs this semester,” Anderson said. “Different speakers will discuss different topics, such as how to operate Webex and how to up your social media game.”