To strengthen communities, groups organize their own welcome weeks

BY VERONICA MENALDI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 6, 2010

New and returning students were welcomed to campus last week with traditional Welcome Week events like New Student Convocation, the first football game in Michigan Stadium, block parties and of course, free food. But some campus groups are using the start of the semester to bring members of various communities together and introduce students to less traveled areas of campus.

This week marks the start of Black Welcome Week, an event organized by the Black Student Union, which features a mix of academic and social events. LSA junior Chatoris Jones, treasurer of BSU, said the aim of the event is to “bring unity” to the community.

“We want all the incoming freshmen to get to know one another,” Jones said.

The week’s events include a drive-in movie, a girls’ and guys’ game night and general health talks. Also on the agenda is a pre-professional day in which researchers and different organizations on campus come together to speak to new students about getting involved.

In years past, Black Welcome Week, which has been going on since the fall of 2002, took place during the official first week back to campus. But to avoid competition with Meijer Madness and other Welcome Week events, Jones said they pushed their events one week later. This scheduling also gives students the option to stop by the events after their classes, he said.

Student-athletes this year will also experience change in their welcome week reception, which began on Sept. 7 and will end on Sept. 12.

LSA senior Alex Wood, president of the University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, said student-athletes in previous years attended a nighttime banquet — the sole event of past welcome weeks.

“This is the first year (for the longer event), and we really tried to put together a program from Tuesday to Sunday to get this year’s freshmen welcomed into the Michigan family and give them tips to success,” Wood said.

Planned welcoming activities include a senior panel in which first-year student-athletes are given the opportunity to ask questions of senior athletes, networking tips at the University Career Center and a screening of “Invictus” during a finale event titled “Wolverine Wow,” according to the SAAC.

Wood said the movie screening — intended for the entire athletic community — would take place on the 10-yard line in the recently re-dedicated Michigan Stadium and will feature popcorn vendors. Wood added that the focus on helping student-athletes make the college transition partly reflected the Athletic Department's own transition under the new leadership of Athletic Director David Brandon.

Another welcome week event, Explorth, aims to “showcase and highlight North Campus” by offering the chance for students as well as faculty and staff to learn about and see all that North Campus has to offer, said Jennifer Wegner, Student Affairs program manager for the College of Engineering and Explorth committee member said.

“It’s very active,” she said. “We know the best way to see (North Campus) is to actually walk around, go to the buildings you might not normally go into and learn things about cool design studios, for example.”

Though various groups on North Campus hosted the event last year, this year’s version — slated for Sept. 15 — will be bigger with more musical performances, an open jam session and more food.

The event starts on the North Campus Diag where participants are given a “passport” highlighting major visiting points. Once the participants see as many spots as they desire and receive a stamp at each, they can turn the passport in for a chance to win a raffle prize.

Students were also welcomed to Central Campus last week with a variety of performances, speeches and other anchor events like Artscapade, Gayz Craze, Escapade, and Maize Craze said Debra Mexicotte, assistant director of the University’s Office of New Student Programs.

Taste of Michigan, a signature Welcome Week event, aims to “bridge” the gap between the Ann Arbor community, Greek Life and the general student body, Ryan Knapp vice president of public relations for the Interfraternity Council said.

The event allowed students to get a sense of the various dining options in Ann Arbor with 13 companies, including Buffalo Wild Wings and Silvio’s Organic Pizza, giving out food samples.

The event is put on by all four Greek councils in conjunction with LSA Student Government, Knapp said.

— Daily News Editor Eshwar Thirunavukkarasu contributed to this report.