Welcome Weekend events orient new students to campus
Andrew Cameron | Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Sunday marked the end of this year’s Welcome Weekend, a three-day slew of hall programming and events designed to welcome all first-year and transfer students to Notre Dame, orient them to life on campus and acquaint them with their fellow Domers. From the roar of countless spirited interhall serenades to Domerfest to the silent candlelit procession to the Grotto, campus bustled as incoming students met and mingled with their peers and settled into their new home.
Groups of Welcome Weekend ambassadors from each residence hall helped incoming students move into their residence halls and led them through the many events of the weekend.
After receiving their ID cards and moving into their halls, incoming students were officially welcomed by University President Fr. John Jenkins in the Purcell Pavilion on Friday. Saturday’s events included the class photo, a kick-off session for the Moreau first-year experience, residence hall programming and Domerfest — a carnival full of games, food and music. Students were invited to the Purcell Pavilion on Sunday for the new student Mass. The day concluded with a candlelit procession to the Grotto, where students joined in prayer.
Junior Mary Lynn Dekold, one of two captains for Howard Hall, said Welcome Weekend serves two purposes.
“I think the first goal of Welcome Weekend is to welcome the first years and to give them an introduction to Notre Dame and the kind of community we have here,” Dekold said. “I think our second purpose is to help them transition into life at Notre Dame, life in their halls and life in college.”
Giana Fallara, a first-year student in Howard Hall, said the weekend was a success regarding these goals.
“I feel like I’m less nervous now, and I know where I am and where I’m going and how campus life works,” Fallara said. “I feel like I can see [myself] having a future here and having a home here.”
Another first-year student in Howard Hall, Abby Brita, said the packed nature of the weekend’s programming helped her transition to campus life.
“I really liked how there was always something to do so you were never just sitting alone,” she said. “You don’t know anyone yet, so when there aren’t any organized events and you don’t know what to do, it makes you feel lost or more alone, but I didn’t feel that at all. I always felt like I was with a group of people and always meeting new people.”
Senior Anya Lindholm, a Welcome Weekend captain for Cavanaugh Hall, also complimented the busy nature of Welcome Weekend.
“I think that keeping them doing activities, while it might feel a bit campy at times, helps them get their mind off of being nervous about coming to school and being sad that their families are leaving,” Lindholm said.
While many of Welcome Weekend’s events — such as residence hall serenades and Domerfest — remained from past years, some residence halls instituted some changes this year.
The Howard Hall Welcome Weekend staff, for example, introduced “flocks” this year — small groups of incoming students led by ambassadors who get to know the students in their group more closely, Dekold said.
Lindholm said the events in general felt more well-planned and relaxed this year than during her own Welcome Weekend experience as a first year.
Fisher Hall rector Richard Mazzei said Notre Dame has been working over the past few years to be more welcoming and inclusive of everyone during Welcome Weekend and progress was visible this year.
“I think it really just started to show that we are, as a University and as a hall community, just welcoming,” he said. “I just felt a more welcoming spirit, and I think that comes from all the training that our Welcome Weekend ambassadors and captains get.”
Mazzei also spoke to the role of the rectors in Welcome Weekend events.
“I think rectors work extremely hard to make sure that Welcome Weekend is welcoming, and I credit all my colleagues,” he said. “You can see it in our faces — we’re tired, it’s been a long weekend, but that’s because we care so much.”
While Welcome Weekend was full of fast-paced activities, Mazzei said for him, the reflective gathering at the Grotto was the most memorable.
“You walk with them with the lighted candles to the Grotto, and you look at all these young faces just starting their career at Notre Dame, and you’re looking at the Blessed Mother, and you just think, ‘Wow, this is so special,’” he said. “It just makes Notre Dame the special place it is.”