By Emily Lohec | Staff Writer
Just a week before the beginning of fall semester, Student Programs held the annual celebration of Welcome Week from Aug. 21 to 25—a popular event complete with both old and new traditions to make freshmen feel supported and excited for the upcoming year.
Jada Holliday, head coordinator of Welcome Week, expressed that the week was filled with activities geared to excite the students and encompass what it truly means to be a Baylor Bear.
“Not only do you connect with your Welcome Week leaders, but you will become closer with your small group from individuals in your residence hall,” Holliday said.
Welcome Week also combines forming personal friendships with an introduction to a few popular Baylor traditions.
“Our Big Event has become a tradition during Welcome Week — each and every student pegs this to be their favorite. It’s just a blast and a half; the night has an overall theme, karaoke, build-a-bear, a dance party, mini golf and arcade games,” Holliday said. “Of course one of the best parts of the week is the freshman Academic Convocation, a tradition that has welcomed many of our freshman class and provided a bonding time with new friends as you learn about the Baylor family and your purpose within it.”
Welcome Week was not only for the students — the open invitation was also extended to loved ones who wanted to attend some of the festivities, according to Vincent Phillips, senior coordinator of student welcome programs.
“Something new and exciting this year [was] the Baylor Family Picnic hosted on Aug. 22,” Phillips said. “The family members could come and experience a dinner with their student and feel the love from the university first hand.”
Edmond, Okla., junior Avery Harris, a Welcome Week leader for the fall semester, believes that with the new picnic, the families are getting a chance to see the community in which their student is now a part of and share a special moment together before their student begins the school year.
“Sending off their kid is so rewarding to the parents themselves and being able to witness this gives them a sigh of relief,” Harris said.
Thursday and Friday did not mark the end of Welcome Week, however—as Saturday and Sunday rolled around, connections made from new friendships formed throughout the week were meant to continue growing through additional events and activities for students.
One such event occurred Saturday— a yoga flow session out on Fountain Mall with the FitWell staff, followed by a get-together to learn more about what it means to hold the title of a Baylor student.
Sunday morning was a time to encourage students to attend a Waco church service with new friends or their small group. The traditional evening Candlelight service to welcome home the new Baylor Bears wrapped up the week’s events.
Phillips sees Baylor as a community of support for those from all walks of life wanting to take the next steps to reach their aspired academic and personal goals, and Welcome Week as an introduction to this experience.
“We understand everyone comes from various backgrounds, and we want to offer all who attend the same shared experience when you join the Baylor family,” Phillips said. “Forty years ago, Baylor University held its very first Welcome Week. We celebrated the 41st Welcome Week, and it’s safe to say Welcome Week is here to stay.”
Holliday views Welcome Week as an event designed to comfort the transitioning students into the next big journey of their lives.
“Baylor’s four-year experience truly beings with Welcome Week,” Holliday said. “Starting a new journey is overwhelming, but college is overwhelming and we just want to make that transition for these students as comfortable and smooth as it can be.”
Harris sees the week as a chance for students entering the same new chapter of their lives to begin building friendships and blazing their own trail as Baylor students.
“I feel so blessed knowing I got to walk alongside these new students. I myself knew no one when I came to Waco and having the opportunity right off the bat to meet the other students around me was a wonderful opportunity. I’m glad I did not miss it,” Harris said.