Welcome Week is the second largest event on campus, next to graduation. It is a new student orientation, the weekend before classes start. This is a program that helps students transition into a university setting. Welcome Week encompasses learning about the terminology that is often used in college, learning about different campus resources, meeting peers, and connecting with faculty and staff.
The families of new students also get the opportunity to transition into this big change. The first day of Welcome Week is designed to help that transition with the family barbeque, panels, worship, and commissioning that happens at the end of the night.
Brooke Morrissy, Interim Director of Student Engagement, heavily contributed to the planning and execution of Welcome Week. She oversees new student experience and Family Relations, co-advises student government, and contributes to both student life and the Office of Student Engagement. She also helps in creating new initiatives, like the new Vanguard University Students Events app, which is an app where all campus events are posted for students and faculty to see.
Eli Chew is also an instrumental part of the success of Welcome Week. He is the Coordinator of New Student Experience and Family Relations. He works with first-year students and their families within Welcome Week, Activate, and other first-year programs.
Chew is also in charge of a group of five students known as First Year Experience Coordinators. These five students are also largely in charge of the tail end of planning and executing Welcome Week, as well as helping train Frontline student leaders.
Frontline is a student program where sophomore, junior, and senior students are able to step into a role to help guide incoming students into the university. Frontline leaders are the incoming students’ main point of contact through the first weekend as they give tours of the campus, answer any questions students might have, and lead them in getting better accumulated with students and faculty.
Chew wanted to give a shot out to all the volunteers during the week. He mentioned that Frontline leaders give up their time for not only training but also to help all the new students move in. Chew said, “If it wasn’t for Frontline, move-in wouldn’t have happened as smoothly and Welcome Week wouldn’t have happened at all.”
A large amount of planning goes into Welcome Weekend. They begin planning the week in February. This early planning includes big vision casting. An Orientation Council of about nine different staff members then work together in order to create the best possible schedule and events for the incoming students. The stride of it all is from May to the day before Welcome Week starts. That includes more planning, contacting the right people, ironing out any kinks, training Frontline leaders, and doing their best to ensure Welcome Week is a success.
There were multiple changes from the 2021 Welcome Week to the 2022 Welcome Week. There was the impact of the ongoing construction of the Freed Center on parking, the ongoing desire to give students a personalized touch, and the realization that COVID is still a contagious disease. This led to two welcome/move-in days, on both Thursday and Friday, instead of just the singular day on Friday. This was the first time that a two-day model had been implemented, but it was highly successful.
Morrissy also focused on changes to the student leadership experience as well, specifically for Frontline. She focused on the training schedule in order to make it more digestible. This included having online training beforehand so there wasn’t as much heavy information during the in-person training sessions, using the two-day module to get to know their groups more personally, and celebrating them with a Frontline banquet.
When asked about the success of Welcome Week, Morrissy touched on the fact that there were no major fires, everything seemed to go smoothly, and students were engaged throughout the week. However, she will determine the overall true success of Welcome Week when she gets the survey back from the incoming students.
She also said, “It’s a team effort for success. I’m definitely grateful for the partnerships I have with Commuter Life, Residence Life, the Office of Student Engagement, the Spiritual Formation Department, athletics, and all the teams. Everyone is so fantastic.”