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Welcome Weekend aims to engage freshmen in campus life

| Friday, August 18, 2017

Hosted by the Division of Student Affairs and the First Year of Studies, Welcome Weekend will introduce approximately 2,000 first-year students and 200 transfer students to life at Notre Dame. The orientation began Thursday for transfer students — who started moving in at 11 a.m. — and Friday for first-year students, who will begin moving in at 9 a.m., according to the Welcome Weekend app.

A student rides his bike across Notre Dame’s campus Thursday,  the first day groups of new students arrived at the University.Kathryne Robinson | The Observer
A student rides his bike across Notre Dame’s campus Thursday, the first day groups of new students arrived at the University.

Senior Drew O’Connell is a member of the Orientation Steering Committee ­­­— a group of students who help oversee Welcome Weekend programming — and planned events as a summer intern. O’Connell said one of the committee’s main focuses this year is the Day of Community, which allows students to travel into the South Bend community.

“We’re looking at about 2,200 students that will have the opportunity to go to 22 different organizations out in the Notre Dame and South Bend community and … hopefully make those connections, so it’s a four-year connection instead of a one-day event,” he said.

Sustainability was also one of the committee’s main objectives this year, O’Connell said. Last year, first-year students and their parents received reusable water bottles during Welcome Weekend as part of the committee’s sustainability efforts, he said.

“We actually reduced plastic bottle waste by about 15,000 bottles with some of our water conservation efforts,” O’Connell said. “We’re looking to continue those types of results this year again with some of our water trucks.”

Sophomore Brandon Davis, also a member of the Orientation Steering Committee, said the committee is taking advantage of the new stadium to host some of this year’s events.

“The first-year cookout, in the past, used to be held on South Quad, and there used to be problems with rain — events would get rained out or there wouldn’t be enough tents — and the lines would be horrendously long,” he said. “So we kind of revamped that event, and now it’s going to be held in the concourse of the new stadium.”

The class of 2021 will also take a class photo on the football field, Davis said.

“It’s going to be one of those photos where you have all 2,000 of the first years standing, so it all makes a picture,” he said. “They’ll make the Notre Dame logo on the football field, and then we’ll take the bird’s eye picture of it.”

While the class photo is a new event, the general Welcome Weekend schedule is similar to past years, Davis said.

Junior Emily Okawara, Cavanaugh Hall’s Welcome Weekend co-captain, said one of her favorite Welcome Weekend traditions is move-in.

“I think move-in is really fun — just all the music playing outside on Friday morning and people driving up with their cars,” she said. “Everybody is so nervous and so excited, and then they’re all greeted by these crazy residents in their hall. I think it just really showcases the welcome Notre Dame gives and also kind of how much fun they’re going to have in the next four years.”

Okawara said she hopes first years will find communities that will support them throughout their entire time at Notre Dame.

“I hope they feel comfortable enough to be able to be fully and truly authentically themselves this weekend and kind of use that to make friends and enter into the community that is Cavanaugh and is Notre Dame,” she said.

Junior Juan Esteban Baus, Keenan Hall’s Welcome Weekend co-captain, said he remembers experiencing this feeling of community when he was a first-year student. Notre Dame, he said, is “more than just a school.”

“It’s a family where everyone sticks up for each other, and you feel welcomed from the very beginning,” he said. “All these events reassure, I think, not only the students, but also the parents, that you are in the best place possible.”

Baus said one of his favorite Welcome Weekend traditions in Keenan is the dorm’s knighting ceremony, which takes place on the Friday of Welcome Weekend.

“They [first years] take turns going up to the rector, and it’s really that process of becoming a Keenan Knight,” he said. “It’s really making sure you know what that stands for and what values you will uphold as a Keenan Knight and as a Notre Dame student.”

Even though Welcome Weekend is heavily focused on dorm life, new students should not feel discouraged if they don’t immediately adjust to life in their residence halls, Davis said.

“It’s very easy for [students] to think that if they don’t really kind of click right away in their dorm that they just don’t fit in,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of finding the people that don’t necessarily live in your section or on the same floor as you.”

Davis said other optional Welcome Weekend events can also offer opportunities to find a sense of community on campus.

“I would also really encourage any first year not to go just to the events that are mandatory,” he said. “Go to some of the optional events that we have on the schedule just to see if there’s another place on campus that you like a lot or think you’re going to click in.”

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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