Weeks of Welcome helps new students feel at home at SIU

Savannah+Long+hands+out+bagels+on+Bagel+Wednesday+Aug.+18%2C+2021+at+Faner+Hall.

Chris Bishop | @quippedmediallc

Savannah Long hands out bagels on Bagel Wednesday Aug. 18, 2021 at Faner Hall.

SIU’s Weeks of Welcome is back with festivals, food, games and more to welcome new students to campus. This year is a particularly special year for both freshmen and sophomores, as last year most of the Weeks of Welcome events were either canceled or moved online, and the opportunities for social connections were limited.

Kirstin Altom, a junior mortuary science major, was a resident assistant in Mae Smith during the 2020-2021 school year. She said though she tried to get students involved with both online and in-person events, most of her residents were either afraid to gather due to COVID-19 or simply felt they could not build any real relationships online.

“It was very hard to get students to participate online, in person, anything. They just felt disconnected, and it didn’t really matter what you were putting out there,” Altom said. “It was like pulling teeth to get them to do things, but I feel like there’s an eagerness now to get them out there.”  

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Emily Spann, the director of New Student Programs, said it is a priority to all the event coordinators that students stay safe but are still able to interact.

“Event hosts decide the best modality for their event. There are several events that are in-person, but there are also several events that are online/virtual,” Spann said.

Tiffany Young, a sophomore, said she is interested in participating in Weeks of Welcome events, but she feels there is not enough communication informing students. She said she believes the university may intentionally not be publicizing events very much in order to keep from having large groups of students gather during the pandemic.

“I always want to go to those activities, but I don’t know about them until they’re halfway over,” Young said. “I’m always hearing different things from different people, and it’s confusing.”

Spann said she disagreed, as it is part of SIU’s mission to make all students feel welcome, and she encourages all students to participate in Weeks of Welcome. Additionally, there are events organized for non-traditional students, international students and students from different cultures.  

“Non-Traditional Student Services hosts a Family Carnival and the Student Multicultural Resource Center hosts various events,” Spann said. “It’s important to note that all events are open to all students. Students are looking for a connection, a community at SIU. We’re hopeful through Weeks of Welcome events, students are able to make those connections.”

The school has events going on for the first six weeks of the fall semester. On Thursday, August 12, Weeks of Welcome kicked off with Light up the Lake, an event at Becker Pavilion that included s’mores, a climbing wall, a DJ and dancing.

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On Saturday, August 14, the festivities continued with Dawgs Night Out, one of the most popular events of the year. The line at the student center continued out the door and wrapped around the building of the student center as new and old students mingled, taking goofy pictures in a photobooth, riding a mechanical bull, singing karaoke, playing laser tag and more.

Altom said she believes the first few weeks are critical to students feeling safe and comfortable at SIU, and she is hopeful that by holding in-person events, everyone will feel more connected and at home.

“I think all the events we put on at the beginning of the year are important because they can make or break some people’s college experiences,” Altom said. “The beginning of the year sets the tone for your whole year, so if there’s nothing going on at the beginning of the year, why is anyone gonna want to go to anything later on? If we’re having stuff now and introducing everybody to everything right at the beginning, they see everything that we have to offer.”

Weeks of Welcome will continue through September 26 and include events such as the College of Liberal Arts’ “Bagel Wednesday’s” in Faner, Morris Library’s game nights and the Saluki Sprint at the first football game.

Spann encourages everyone to log on to wow.siu.edu and find some activities where they can have fun with their old friends or make new friends.

Staff reporter Elena Schauwecker can be reached at [email protected] To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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