Belles Beginnings builds community, introduces students to campus
Genevieve Coleman | Friday, August 20, 2021
Each year, Saint Mary’s unites to host Belles Beginnings, a weekend of events meant to foster friendship and community among first-year and transfer students.
Student Government Association (SGA) president Elly Hanson spoke on the mission behind this year’s programming.
“The focus of Belles Beginnings this year revolves around navigating college life in the midst of a pandemic while also balancing a social life, mental health and course load,” Hanson said.
Recalling the challenges caused by the pandemic, Hanson hopes that Belles Beginnings participants can have a more normal orientation to college life.
“Our experience with orientation last year during a pandemic was extremely limited, so now that some of our restrictions have eased up, we wanted to establish a foundation for the incoming first years and transfer students and show them the vibrancy of the Saint Mary’s community,” Hanson said.
Hallmark large group gatherings, like Domerfest and the Opening of the Circle, as well as the first annual walk down The Avenue, are planned with contingency plans in place, according to Hanson.
“Luckily we have been able to proceed with the weekend as if it were a normal year, but we are prepared to make accommodations [as] necessary,” she said. “We are very excited to be reunited with our tri-campus community through Domerfest.”
This year’s schedule also includes a matriculation ceremony, presentations about campus resources and events hosted by various campus organizations.
Hanson noted SGA’s goals of supporting first-generation and underrepresented students who participated in Belles Connect, an initiative through the Office of Multicultural Service meant to help transition students to the College earlier in this month.
“Our priorities while mentoring these students would be to be present at Belles Connect and get to know them on a more personal level if possible,” Hanson said. “We are incredibly excited to grow our Inclusivity Committee that focus on inclusion, diversity and bridging social gaps.”
For students who are still acclimating to a large college environment, Hanson noted that events are planned for those who still want to be involved in the weekend.
“[W]e have an alternative Domerfest event going on at Saint Mary’s, as well as a variety of events that promote conversation for the student who may be less outgoing,” Hanson said. “We are hoping that SGA alongside [Student Diversity Board, Residence Hall Association and Student Activities Board] are able to succeed in easing the first-years’ experience at college through these planned events.”
Hanson advises first-years to enjoy their time on campus, even if they are homesick, so they can fully appreciate their four years at Saint Mary’s.
“The advice we would [give] our first-year students is [to] be open to change,” she said. “We would advise our first-years to stay on campus as much as they miss home. Growth doesn’t occur inside your comfort zone. Stay on campus and appreciate it while you can.”