Welcome Week: Students celebrate return to school after summer ends

Students check out the various booths of various student organizations on King Street.

The entering Class of 2023 showed its joyous character right away as the freshmen brought an energy and excitement rivaling a major sporting event to this year’s Welcome Week at UMHB. During the initial move-in on Aug. 21, King Street was filled with smiles, cheering, shouting and extra energy.
The first sight that freshmen were treated to was that of the Color Leaders, who would lead all of the competitive Color Clash events between campus dorms.

Incoming freshman Maria Severson, Jenna Kurburski, and Kayley Brookshire talk about the Dubbing Ceremony.

They helped greet and move the freshmen into their dorms. Carloads of people were greeted with signs that said “Welcome Home,” while throngs of professors and student leaders, and even University President Randy O’Rear rushed to the cars to help incoming students and their parents. They first greeted students and parents, and then helped to unload their vehicles and haul students’ belongings up to their new rooms, where many would meet their roommates for the first time.

Though their roommates came from far and wide, various events that the freshmen attended throughout the week seemed to instill a sense of camaraderie. This year, students and faculty joined the university this year from as far away as California to the island nation of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Sriyan Wickramasuriya, the latest addition to the Math Department from Sri Lanka, was one of the people who made this Welcome Week extra special by joining in with other faculty and staff to help move students onto campus with his contagious energy.

“I heard at the orientation that people volunteer for it, so I was very excited to help,” Wickramasuriya said.

Making an outstanding influence on the next generation of UMHB students was an evident goal, and an unspoken theme of each interaction throughout the week as CRU Leaders, Color Leaders and event organizers shared many life-changing moments with the freshmen.

Senior nursing majors Alexys Wharton from Huntsville and Shayleigh Haas from Georgetown greet incoming freshmen as they arrive to unload their cars and move into their dorms.

Moving from California to attend UMHB, freshman Christian ministry major Daniel Richardson said that his most memorable moment of Welcome Week was when he visited his CRU Leader’s home.

Incoming freshman and Christina ministry major Daniel Richardson from Santa Clara (left) gets assistance on move-in day from sophomore marketing major Evrhett White.

“Our CRU Group Leader had us all over to her house and she made spaghetti, and we just talked and played games,” Richardson said.

Organizers feel that times like these, while simple, are unique to this specific Welcome Week group, and can have a transformative effect.

Senior Lauren Murray, who was a co-director of this year’s Welcome Week, credited her desire to become involved with the event to her previous mentors from her own Welcome Week as an incoming freshman.

“I wanted to be co-director for Welcome Week because of the example that [has] been set before me by upperclassman,” Murray said. “I think that UMHB does a really great job of allowing students to learn and grow in servant leadership. I wanted to be able to continue that example for future freshmen while growing as a person, a student, and a leader myself.”

The Color Leaders have an equally large role to play when it comes to having positive effects on the incoming freshmen. One such Color Leader, Evrhett White, a sophomore marketing major from Georgetown, believes that the first contact made at a new school is important.

“Welcome Week is your foundation,” White said. “It really is a make or break for [your] college career. I really wanted to be on the front line to meet them and introduce them to UMHB and college and adulthood.”

While the many different freshmen had mixed ideas about how Welcome Week may have changed them, it was clear that the event is beneficial. “I would say definitely participate in Welcome Week,” Maria Severon, a freshmen biology major from Georgetown, said.

While incoming freshman Richardson enjoyed his Welcome Week at UMHB, and he knows he will be affected by these new beginnings at college, he admits that he has yet to realize its long-term effects.

“We might change during [school], but at the moment we’re all the same as the people that left home two weeks ago!”

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