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Welcome Week to scale back on social events, offer hybrid experience

| Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Instead of the annual Welcome Weekend, the Office of Student Affairs and First-Year Advising will hold Welcome Week to safely introduce first-year students and their families to Notre Dame.

Typically, first-year students move in the Friday before classes begin and participate in Welcome Weekend, a Friday through Sunday program that combines social events between dorms with academic sessions involving students and parents. This year, the first-year experience will look different given the risk of large gatherings in the midst of the pandemic.

Lauren Donahue, program director for new student engagement in the Division of Student Affairs, said first-year students and guests were split into two groups with two different move-in dates of Monday or Wednesday. Those with a move-in date of Monday will have programming through Wednesday while those moving in on Wednesday will have programming through Friday.

“Folks can expect to experience the same exact program, no matter if they’re in the blue schedule or the gold schedule, and we are working, and have worked, to provide them experiences that will mirror things that [other] students have experienced,” Donahue said.

In addition to the events once families arrive on campus, the Welcome Week Steering Committee (WWSC) — a group of upperclassmen who work during the summer to plan Welcome Week events — created videos introducing families to important organizations on campus.

“The video series hopes to ease the anxieties and uncertainties that students and families may be facing while navigating their first year at Notre Dame during these unprecedented times,” said Jordan Brown, senior and a member of WWSC, in an email.

Junior and member of WWSC Isaiah Metcalf acknowledged that planning the welcome activities this year was difficult as a result of the health precautions.

“There is a certain loss of personality when activities are moved online, so there was a fine balance we had to find between fostering community and keeping the campus safe,” Metcalf said in an email.

Andrew Whittington, program director for first-year engagement in the Center for University Advising, said an emphasis was also placed on the importance of students’ academic success combined with their extracurricular and spiritual life at Notre Dame for Welcome Week.

“Including opportunities for students to engage with faculty and staff was very essential, as well as celebrating Mass together as kind of a hallmark of our Holy Cross education,” Whittington said. “We believe praying together brings us together in a community in ways that the other things don’t.”

While parents or other guests are expected to leave following the end of their assigned programming, student programming within dorm communities will continue up to the start of classes on Monday. Whittington said he hopes the extra time between move-in and the start of classes will give first-years the opportunity to slow down.

“If I’m putting myself in the shoes of a first-year student, we have a few more moments in which they can take a breath and find a quiet moment with their roommates, or walk down the hall or walk down the quad and meet someone new,” Whittington said.

The programming within every dorm is run by Welcome Week teams, members of each residence hall who move onto campus early to welcome first years to their dorm communities.

To limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19, student-only programming will not include inter-hall events as in past years, Noble Patidar, co-captain of Keough Hall Welcome Week team, said.

Patidar, a senior who has served on the Welcome Weekend team for the past two years, said although the schedule is different this year, he has high hopes for the experience.

“I’m excited for us to do more close-knit events where kids from different sections [in the hall] get to know each other because the primary source of social interaction this year is probably going to be within your dorm, section to section,” Patidar said.

Metcalf said he feels the dorm programming is one of the strongest aspects of the 2020 Welcome Week and will “help set up a more united dorm culture this year.”

One challenge Patidar said he faced this year was having to cut his Welcome Week team from 18 people to three to comply with University limits on the number of early student move-ins.

“That was tough because all these guys are all-stars of the dorm already, and then you have to cut on top of that, so we literally used a random generator. We couldn’t make the decision,” Patidar said.

According to Donahue, the major theme of Welcome Week is creating an inclusive environment.

“First and foremost, we want to ensure that students who are new to our campus find a sense of belonging and a sense of connection to this place, to people that they encounter in their residence halls and their classrooms,” Donahue said.

Striving for Welcome Week to be a truly welcoming experience for each and every student has led many, including Brown, to have a strong desire to be a part of the Notre Dame tradition.

“I wished to contribute my perspective as a biracial student to create an environment that is focused on inclusion and is comfortable for students, especially for those from underrepresented groups,” Brown said.

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a sophomore pursuing a major in history with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. She currently serves as an associate news editor.

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