Thousands Prep to Welcome New, Returning Students

Invested in making sure undergraduate and graduate students feel a close bond to the University early in their academic careers, members of the campus community have united to host welcome events.
Aug. 21, 2013
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Wildcat Welcome
Aug. 23-30, 2013
University of Arizona - Campuswide

Intent on improving student retention and graduation rates, and backed by research indicating that students must feel a close, personal connection in order to persist, thousands of faculty, staff and students are coordinating welcoming events.

Numerous people across campus are gearing up to introduce and reintroduce undergraduate and graduate students and their families to the University of Arizona.

Whether involved in a major University-wide event or a small departmental reception, such UA coordinators and volunteers persistently say that they strive to create a welcoming atmosphere, with attention paid to students' academic, professional and social growth.

"It's all about the personal touches to make sure students feel like they are part of our family," said Stefanie Basij, the New Student Orientation director and assistant director of Enrollment Services.

"That's something we really work toward – showing people that they are part of the Wildcat family."

Residence Life Move-In Volunteers

More than 300 people from across campus will come together to help move nearly 7,000 UA students into their campus housing this week, said Dana Robbins-Murray, the assistant director of marketing for Residence Life.

Robbins-Murray noted that more than a dozen Undergraduate Admissions staff signed up to help, while about 30 Facilities Management employees offered to volunteer. Other offices whose members made organized efforts to gather volunteers include Student Affairs and the Think Tank.

Christine Salvesen is among those volunteers.

"I think it's important for students to see that the community they are a part of is there to support and welcome them from the beginning," said Salvensen, director of Academic Success and Achievement.

Kasey Urquidez, UA associate vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, consistently encourages her staff to support students during move-in, as well as other events, for an important and specific reason.

"We spend all year out there telling students what a great, friendly and cooperative place the UA is, and we want to make good on that promise," said Urquidez, who also is dean of Undergraduate Admissions.

With more than 30 volunteers, Facilities Management has the largest number of individuals from a single department aiding with move-in.

"We're all Wildcats and, in all seriousness, we're here to help," said Chris Kopach, assistant vice president for Facilities Management.

Performing service work is a value within the division, which also helps with Cats in the Community, the Tucson Festival of Books and numerous other events and fundraisers.

"It's really important for us to have good, solid connections and we're working in collaborative ways with other units," Kopach said.

Regarding the welcoming events, Kopach said the staff is especially grateful to make connections with students and families.

"It's a really, really positive experience for people in Facilities Management," Kopach said. "I could not be more proud of my facilities staff. They always step up, and there is a loyalty to the University among those who are here."

Wildcat Welcome 2013

One of the largest, most visible events of the fall is Wildcat Welcome, a series of events coordinated by a range of University units to acclimate students to campus.

Formal University-wide welcome events begin with Wildcat Fiesta, happening Thursday evening in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center with food, entertainment and special guests.

Wildcat Welcome also includes the RHA Block Party and the "Taste of the Union" event at the Student Union, both happening Saturday, and the Aug. 26 New Student Convocation.

On Friday, the Wildcat Welcome Family Conference will be held all day at the Student Union, introducing University students to UA technology and their colleges while also informing parents of programs and resources.

Such welcoming events serve as "an extension of orientation," Basij said.

"It's nice to see that there is something for every student," she said. "We want to make sure students are connected every step of the way."

The benefits from the events extend to staff members, too.

"These are great ways for people who don't get to interact with students a lot," Basij said. "A great example is the admissions recruiters, who love volunteering because they get to see students they helped get to the UA."

Welcome Receptions of All Types, Sizes

Numerous clubs, organizations, departments and units put together smaller and more intimate programs.

Such events include the Wildcat Student Employment Fair, a film screening at Highland Bowl behind Posada San Pedro Residence Hall and the pre-semester Shabbat services and dinner at the Hillel Foundation.

Also, University staff coordinated a new Transfer Welcome program, happening Friday. The event connects transfer students with one another while informing them of UA resources.

At the Student Recreation Center, Meet Me at the Rec will be held. The event is coordinated by Campus Recreation, Campus Health Service and Residence Life.

The center is hosting a ribbon cutting on Monday to introduce the new Cherry Street Field – a grass field with bleacher seating – with the carnival-style Meet Me at the Rec event beginning immediately after.

"Meet Me at the Rec is an opportunity to showcase programs and opportunities for student engagement outside the classroom," said Michele Schwitzky, Campus Recreation's senior assistant director for marketing and outreach.

Schwitzky noted that the event is "a perfect way for staff to welcome students back to campus and kick off the start of the semester."

Whether receptions happen on a University-wide level or in specific departments and units, Urquidez said all are important aspects of student acclimation and retention.

"That's part of our message: The UA has 40,000 students, but you never feel like you are just a number because there are so many smaller communities within," Urquidez said.

"We want students to know we are not just recruiting them for one day or one year; we want them to graduate," she also said. "We want them to come back year after year, that's why we continue that welcome throughout their time as Wildcats."