Students can’t wait to welcome back Welcome Week
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
One of the first signs that Grand Canyon University expects to be back to full speed this fall is Welcome Week, its signature series of events to welcome incoming students.
After the pandemic altered events in the 2020-21 academic year, Welcome Week will return Aug. 30 with an enthusiastic move-in experience but add more of that zany spirit throughout the week.
“After a really difficult year, we want Welcome Week to exceed people’s hopes. It sets us off on a strong foot and shows students from the get-go how they can get involved and really brings back that sense of community,” said Charity Norman, Director of Welcome Programs.
“It’s going to be the first sense of normalcy that people are going to have.”
Welcome Week is more than just a lively move-in experience; it’s a weeklong celebration.
Instead of a massive express move-in, all students this year will sign up for appointed times throughout the week, which got positive reviews after it was tried last year. Instead of hundreds of eager volunteers rushing cars to unload, the new experience will allow for a slower pace for parents to come up to their child’s room and figure things out, Norman said.
“We are trying to keep the lower heart rate and the personal experience each student has with their own family but to bring back more volunteers to help move in and hold signs and cheer when they get to campus,” she said.
The nearly 3,000 students who are expected to move in each day still will get the spirited GCU welcome.
Welcome Crew members cheering and dancing outside each residence hall is such a popular part of the GCU experience that 1,700 students have volunteered and to be part of it. It’s the first time that sophomores and new incoming freshmen will see the full move-in energy.
“I was definitely encouraged by that number, but I can’t say it’s surprising,” said Alden Sia, the marketing and communications coordinator of Welcome Programs who leads the Welcome Crew. “Our student body is so energetic and so servant-hearted. I think students look on it as an honor to be part of the Welcome Crew.”
The crew will include greeters along the route holding signs, welcoming new students by name, cheering and dancing to a playlist of music they help Sia construct via Instagram (@gcuwelcome). They will include groups of move-in volunteers at each building, helping unload cars if needed, and other groups to oversee sustainability efforts during the week, a Spanish Hospitality Team, and those who provide refreshments and cheer from mobile golf carts around campus.
“I loved the experience as a student,” said Sia, a 2019 GCU graduate. “Now it’s exciting to play a part in the legacy, just seeing the excitement on the students faces when they get here.”
There will be activities all over campus throughout the week, and the details of each will be finalized over the summer.
“We’re putting a lot more things on the schedule, so it’s almost like they have too much to do so they have to choose,” Norman said.
Popular events such as Lope-A-Palooza, Canyon Cool Down, Silent Disco, Welcome Back at the CAC and soccer and volleyball matches all will return.
But more social events were added this year, including those for first-generation students and others hosted by Club Sports; the Office of Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office; Academic and Career Excellence; and the Canyon Activities Board.
Campus Recreation will hold games and fitness classes, and the Club and Community Fair will be back and bigger than ever. Several departments also will have open houses or pop-up remote tent locations across campus.
Welcome Week is important for the University and for students, Norman said.
“First impressions mean a lot, and the first step you take into any new environment sets the tone for your experience with that environment,” Norman said.
“It’s our job on behalf of the University to say, ‘Welcome to this environment and here’s everything that you can do, and here’s what you can get out of this experience, if you so choose.’”
Through orientation groups and welcome sessions and events and activities, students are exposed to everything that can make that experience special in the coming years, including events, life on campus and connecting students with others who have common interests.
“Everything that GCU is about should be represented in Welcome Week,” she said.
And, this year, everything means everything.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
When: August 30-Sept. 4
What: Appointment move-in Monday-Friday for all buildings. (Time selection in early July during housing selection).
Events/activities: Canyon Cool Down, Lope-A-Palooza, Welcome Back at the CAC, socials, orientations, swag carts, pop-up booths, information sessions and open houses, and more.