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Welcome Weekend activities introduce students to ND life

| Friday, August 19, 2016

Tuesday, approximately 2,000 people from across the country and around the world will be walking into their first classes as college students at Notre Dame.

But first, the Division of Student Affairs and First Year of Studies is hosting a variety of activities and programming throughout the weekend to help first year students — and their parents — acclimate. “Welcome Weekend,” previously known as “Frosh-O” or “Freshman Orientation” officially began Friday at 9 a.m., when the first round of freshmen started moving into their dorms.

“It’s not orientation anymore — it’s a welcoming,” Maryanne FisherWelcome Weekend co-captain for Walsh Community in Pangborn Hall, said. “Throughout the whole first year you’re being welcomed into the community. It’s not like you’re on your own after this weekend; it’s a gradual process to get to know Notre Dame and you’re continually being welcomed.”

Last year, an oversight committee redesigned freshman orientation weekend to “streamline” the process of introducing students to Notre Dame without overwhelming them with long speeches or unnecessary information.

“The things students should take the most out of this [weekend] is their dorm community: getting to see those faces for the first time, knowing who’s available when you need help,” Flaherty Hall Welcome Weekend co-captain Aline Irihamye said. “It’s just about getting excited for the next four years because it’s a good time and you want it to start off with a blast.”

While freshmen are busy getting to know other students and learning their way around campus, information about financial aid, study abroad and the career center will be presented to their parents. The “parent orientation” that runs alongside Welcome Weekend was first introduced last year.

Irihamye said one of the biggest changes to this year’s Welcome Weekend was extending weekend programming to Monday.

“One of the things that’s being added on this year is the Day of Community, which is on the Monday before classes start,” she said. “Every dorm has a local community organization that they’re going to visit; Flaherty’s is the Center for the Homeless. So from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the orientation committee has buses arranged to take students there and bring them back so that from the moment they get here they can see how to get involved.”

In addition to encouraging students to become involved in the community, the day is intended to help break what many refer to as the “Notre Dame bubble.”

“It’s just to get the first years out in the community,” Fisher said. “A lot of people never really go into South Bend, so it’s just introducing them to things they can do there.”

Other community partners participating in the Day of Community include the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, Good Shepherd Montessori School, La Casa de Amistad, the Robinson Community Learning Center, Riverbend Cancer Services and South Bend Parks and Recreation, among others.  

The McDonald Center for Student Well-Being and RecSports are also adding to the weekend’s programming with a wellness run and yoga on South Quad each morning of Welcome Weekend, Irihamye said.

Fisher said for the most part, programming hasn’t changed much from last year. According to information provided on the Welcome Weekend mobile app, like last year, freshmen will have their first class for the Moreau First-Year Experience Course on Saturday, and will attend DomerFest — a dance party, festival and Notre Dame tradition — that night. The First Year Mass will be held 10 a.m. Sunday at Purcell Pavilion, followed by the first class trip to the Grotto on Sunday night. University President Fr. John Jenkins will also deliver a welcome address to freshmen.

The Moreau First Year Experience Course was introduced for the 2015-2016 academic year to continue the orientation process after Welcome Weekend ends.

“I wish we would have had [Moreau],” Fisher said. “I think the continued welcoming of students into the community throughout the year is really important.”

The Welcome Weekend mobile app was launched last year and features a schedule of events and self-guided campus tours covering academic buildings, favorite study spots and the “best kept secrets” of Notre Dame. The app also has a guide to stores and restaurants in the South Bend area.

In addition to the main events of Welcome Weekend, a number of optional programming events are available to students, including academic exploration sessions, a multicultural reception, an interfaith welcome and a performing arts showcase.

Additionally, time is set aside each night for residence hall programming.

“The main thing [of Welcome Weekend] is welcoming first year students into their dorm community,” Irihamye said.

Each dorm was required to make a video to introduce freshmen to the building and community. Irihamye said the video requirement was useful considering the current residence hall arrangement: Flaherty Hall is a new women’s hall that will house all of the former residents of Pangborn Hall, as well as students picked by application. Meanwhile, residents of Walsh Hall — including incoming freshmen — will be living in Pangborn Hall while their building is under renovation.

“I know it was confusing for us when we got the email, so I don’t even know what the freshmen think,” Fisher said. “We got to explain [with the video] that we’re Walsh but we’re living in Pangborn for a year. They’re mostly just to show freshmen a little of what they should expect of where they’re living.”

While Flaherty Hall is a brand-new dorm, Irihamye said the staff still want to emphasize that first year students are being welcomed into a “strong and close community.”

“We’re trying to use the newness of our dorm to our advantage,” she said. “There’s so many ways we can be involved now in forming new traditions and signature events. People should take advantage of that rather than be wary or concerned.”

Fisher said the central part of Welcome Weekend is to make new students feel comfortable in their new community and new home.

“Notre Dame is a great place, but college can be really scary,” Fisher said. “Welcome Weekend is a really overwhelming experience, but we’re trying to do it in a fun way and get their mind off of leaving home.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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