PORTSMOUTH — Shawnee State University hosted its annual Weekend of Welcome at the beginning of the semester and welcomed over 350 students – both in-person and virtually. Weekend of Welcome, more commonly known across campus as “WOW,” serves as an entry point for new students. The weekend long list of events allows new students to familiarize themselves with campus resources, explore their major and education opportunities, and connect with other students well before classes begin. For many SSU students, WOW is where they end up meeting their best friends, bond with their roommates and choose their major.
“Weekend of Welcome is an extension of our new student orientation process,” said Tiffany Hartman, Director of Student Life. “Especially this year, we wanted to offer as many opportunities as possible for our new students to build connections and get an outstanding start to college life.”
As WOW was one of the first student events held on campus this year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Student Life staff had to make a number of adjustments to their usual schedule to accommodate a large number of incoming students while still maintaining social distancing guidelines among the group.
“It was definitely a challenge in the beginning,” said Hartman. “We normally do these big celebrations indoors — our welcome, BINGO, as well as a number of other events — but this year we couldn’t. So, we had to be creative and plan events that allowed students here in person to remain safe, and those who wanted to attend virtually at home to still feel connected.”
As part of WOW, the Office of Student Life manages over fifty student volunteers to serve as Welcome Ambassadors. They are often the first faces seen by new Bears and their families and help provide an ease of mind throughout those hectic first days on campus.
“Our Welcome Ambassadors are all volunteers,” said Hartman. “Many of them enjoyed their WOW experience so much they chose to come back and volunteer to provide that same experience to new students.”
Trey Boone, a senior studying Game Design, is no stranger to the usefulness of being a Welcome Ambassador. His second year serving in the program, Boone became an ambassador to connect with incoming students as well as help them prepare for college.
“Ambassadors help everyone get situated,” he said. “Students and parents coming in – we help them know where to go and what to do in order to make the process as simple as possible.”
Sofiia Mikhailichenko, a sophomore originally from Ukraine, became a Welcome Ambassador to help other students enjoy their first weekend on campus like she had the year before.
“I understand what it is like to be in a new culture, and honestly, starting college is the same as adapting to a new culture for many of these students,” she said. “As an ambassador, I was able to help people feel comfortable in their new home, as well as knowing how to ask questions if they have them.”
Jacob Kielmar, a junior in the Pre-Med program, wanted to become more involved on campus when he decided to become a Welcome Ambassador.
“It was really enjoyable to meet the new students and show them what their college experience can really be like,” he said. “College is not only about classes all the time. There is a lot to do here that is not directly related to schoolwork and the more students are involved on campus, the better their college experience will be.”
WOW was originally created by two Residence Coordinators to provide more activities for housing students over the weekend between moving into their apartments and waiting for classes to start. The program has expanded in the past decade and become the official welcome to all new students, both those who live on campus and those who commute from home.
To learn more about Student Life at Shawnee State University, visit shawnee.edu/campus-life.