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Oct. 1, 2021 La Grande, OR. – Eastern Oregon University’s 2021 Week of Welcome marked the start of the academic year and a long-awaited return to campus for EOU students and faculty.
Week of Welcome began on Sept. 22 with student move-in and orientation and concluded on Sept. 26 with the end of summer celebration.
Student turnout hit 325, with 253 freshmen, 12 transfer students, 24 student leaders and 36 sophomores, who were invited to participate in-person since orientation last fall was entirely remote.
Director of Student Success and Transition Kathryn Shorts began planning the event last spring. Concerns over COVID-19 possibly limiting the schedule meant that merchandise and materials (such as shirts) were ordered early, while scheduling of events and booking of performers were postponed until near the end of summer. This way, organizers had adequate time to ensure compliance with state and local health authority regulations.
Events and activities took place outside as much as possible to mitigate risk. These safety measures mitigated the risk of spreading disease without weakening the impact that Week of Welcome ultimately had for EOU students. Shorts described a week of fun, belonging and camaraderie.
“[Students] were just really happy to have those experiences again,” Shorts said.
The weather was amazing , people were laughing, and students were kicking off the year side by side with their peers.
Student attendees enjoyed an opportunity to make new friends in-person in a way that hasn’t been possible in well over a year.
“Just having them all come together, they were all so ready for it,” Shorts said. “I feel like we let our guard down a little bit more. It wasn’t so much a matter of ‘Who’s doing what and how I do I look,’ it was ‘Hey, let’s celebrate!”
And celebrate EOU did. Highlights of the event included a 36-team cornhole tournament, a mechanical bull, a rock climbing wall, a “Wipeout” style obstacle course and fleece blanket making (with a total of 150 blankets made by the end of the night). The end of summer celebration featured a sand volleyball tournament and a slip-n-slide with at least 80 students queued up at once. The slide was actually so popular that Shorts had trouble getting students to leave once the event was over. McVicar the Trickster, a hypnotist who performed for students, had participants dancing and even tricked a football player into thinking they were pregnant.
Sophomores were also invited to join in at WOWFest on Saturday to experience a on-campus Week of Welcome.
“We acknowledged that they didn’t get a Week of Welcome like this one and we wanted to let them come and have some fun and meet some students,” Shorts said.
Upperclassmen also led the orientation groups, and benefited from interacting with peers.
“One of my favorite things about WoW is the WoW leaders,” Shorts said. “I had 24 WoW leaders this year and they were just amazing, supportive, ready to go and so excited. Watching them support students throughout the week was probably the most rewarding thing to witness.”
Now, as a new class of Mountaineers embarks on its first Fall Term, they do so with the well-wishes of friends and a memorable start to the beginning of their college careers.
Written by PR Intern Garrett Christensen.
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