Orientation Steering Committee strives for inclusivity through hall programming
Cate Von Dohlen | Friday, August 23, 2019
Notre Dame will welcome the class of 2023 and transfer students this weekend with an annual line-up of events known as Welcome Weekend.
Designed to orient new students to Notre Dame before school starts, the events are coordinated and planned by the Orientation Steering Committee and Welcome Weekend teams within all dorms. Spanning Friday through Sunday, about 2000 new students will arrive on campus early to participate in the events.
Senior Megan Holzgrefe, a member of the Orientation Steering Committee, said the role of the committee members is intermediary.
“Part of being on the committee is [overseeing] two to three different dorms and working with their captains to help coordinate events,” Holzgrefe said. “We are kind of like liaisons between the dorm captains and then Notre Dame administrative side of Welcome Weekend.”
Holzgrefe said no committee members serve as liaisons to their own dorms. For example, Holzgrefe lives in Cavanaugh Hall but overlooks Dillon Hall and Lewis Hall.
Junior Aaron Benavides is also a member of the committee. Benavides, who serves as the student government press secretary, said student government isn’t too involved with Welcome Weekend this year, with a few exceptions. (Editor’s Note: Aaron Benavides is a former news writer for The Observer.)
“Notably, [student body president] Elizabeth [Boyle] and [vice president] Pat [McGuire] will be at the University Welcome on Friday and will also be involved with the first back-to-school Mass,” he said.
Benavides said the general rundown of Welcome Weekend looks similar to last year’s Welcome Weekend, including the first Moreau class for first years, the class photo in the stadium and DomerFest, among other events. Benavides also noted this year’s Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) Saturday night programming theme is “Inclusive Voices for Excellence and Equity.”
Both Benavides and Holzgrefe said the committee has implemented some new requirements and suggestions this year based on data collected from previous Welcome Weekends.
“This year, in an attempt to make sure that we are getting everyone actively involved [and to make sure] that every member of the Notre Dame family feels included and welcome, we implemented a few new things in terms of dorm programming,” Benavides said.
Each year, new students are asked to complete a reflection concerning their Welcome Weekend experience which includes questions about in-hall programming. It is from these surveys that data is collected to measure the popularity of Welcome Weekend events among students.
Lauren Donahue, program director of New Student Engagement and advisor to the Orientation Steering Committee, analyzed the data over the months leading up to this year’s Welcome Weekend and then presented it to the committee.
“What we learned from last year’s survey is that halls that hosted most of their events with halls of the opposite sex wanted to spend more time with only their community or with halls of the same sex. Halls that spent most of their time with only other halls also requested more time with just their community,” Donahue said in an email. “This year, I have encouraged students to strive for a 1:1 ratio with their in-hall programming to create a more even balance between the time students spend with male and female halls.”
Donahue also said hall captains have been asked to host one event each solely with their own hall community. The goal, she said, is to be more intentional with programming for the enjoyment of all students.
“[We found that] just a requirement to have an event just within your own [dorm] community on both nights of programming is really important,” Benavides said.
Benavides used his own dorm, Duncan Hall, as an example.
“On Saturday night, you need to have an event with your own community, so Duncan has to have an event just with itself. Let’s say if [Duncan] has an event with Badin Hall, then it also needs to have an event with a men’s dorm like Alumni or Dillon,” Benavides said.
Holzgrefe said she thought many dorms had a skewed ratio of events with fellow men’s and women’s halls. According to the data, students wanted more of a combination of events that wasn’t skewed one way or another, she said.
“It’s hard to make it absolutely perfect,” Holzgrefe said. ” … Trying to make it as equal as logistically possible is our goal this year.”
Benavides said the Orientation Steering Committee is striving for events that are inclusive and welcoming for all types of students.
“[We are] being really mindful about students with disabilities, international students, multicultural students, first generation students and really we just want to make sure everyone has a great time during Welcome Weekend,” he said. “That’s our focus.”
Holzgrefe said the feeling of being welcomed and included was a large part of her own Welcome Weekend as a first year.
“I really want to make sure that all of the first year students feel that and that their parents feel comfortable leaving their kids here,” Holzgrefe said.