The annual Week of Welcome (WOW) ushers new and returning students back into the USF community with an array of events geared toward meeting new people and celebrating school pride. However, the planning of this tradition begins months in advance.
“Many of our student organization and academic departments are responsible for planning the majority of the events that are hosted during Week of Welcome.” Director of New Student Connections Keri Riegler said.
“They’ll take the months leading up to Week of Welcome to really put some planning into place in order to offer and expose opportunities and services to our new students.”
In order to pull off events organized by New Student Connections, several departments need to coordinate.
For instance, to organize the Balloon Drop, New Student Connections works with the Marshall Student Center (MSC) for the space and music selection, USF Athletics so that Rocky and the Sundolls are there, Housing and Residential Education, and the Orientation Office to encourage students to attend.
While some of the larger events such as the Kick-off celebration and the class photo are organized by the New Student Connections. Assistant Director of the department Michelle Robinson works with organizations on campus to make sure there are as many events for students as possible.
This year, there are over 120.
Robinson mostly works with the Student Affairs programs to put on events. The Student Life Tower in the MSC is involved in making sure there’s at least one event every day during the first 10 days.
WOW started in 2006, but some main elements that have become traditions such as the Balloon Drop and Round Up started in 2011. These annual events usually see the biggest turnout.
According to Robinson, that’s because they’ve become staples in USF culture.
Robinson said WOW focuses on bringing students together and helping them make connections so they feel USF is the best place for them to be.
“Every student wants to feel as though their choice for college, whether it was their first choice or their last choice, is going to be the best choice they’ve made,” Robinson said. “That’s what they’ve been told their whole lives: that college is the best thing you’ll have in your life. We want to create that excitement and that pride but also that community.”
For students, WOW is a good way to make necessary connections on campus.
“I think it’s a great way for students to make connections because you get to meet a lot of new people and get involved with things on campus,” Kailey Wells, a studio art major, said. “Probably next week (I’ll go) to some of the club stuff on campus.”
Marcel Kreuzer, an engineering major, shares the belief that WOW is making a difference in the lives of students.
“It makes everyone want to go out and talk to people, make new friends and learn the new area,” Kreuzer said.
Reigler believed WOW is a crucial experience for students to become a part of the USF community.
“It is pivotal in a new student’s experience to feel like they’ve connected with the University of South Florida as their home and … find friends and a support network for them to really want to stay at the university,” Reigler said. “These programs are pivotal in helping our students to feel like they have that place and that home.”
Additional reporting by Breanne Williams