A big Btown welcome!

It’s hard to believe it’s back-to-school time in Bloomington – that time of year when those of us who stick around during the quiet summer months start to gear up for the impending onslaught of students arriving on campus, busier streets and sidewalks, louder, more crowded restaurants and, yes, fewer parking spaces.

I admit, this is that time when I start pining for a few more weeks of summer to bask in that parking spot right behind my office building and the short line for my coffee and bagel at the Bloomington Bagel Company.

And then it happens: Smiling students and their families snapping selfies at the Sample Gates. Incoming freshmen happily meeting one another for the very first time. The looks on the faces of those students’ family members – a unique combination of pride, happiness and anxiousness. A parent stopping to comment on the stunning beauty of the Bloomington campus.

For us longtime IU Btown folks who’ve experienced more than a few back-to-school extravaganzas, it’s easy to forget what a special and momentous time this truly is for IU students and their families and loved ones.

Here in the IU Newsroom, we talk a good deal about what it means to our students to be joining (or rejoining) the IU community and the power of being part of its proud traditions. Many of us are alums who have fond memories of our days spent as students. Some of us have seen our own children follow in our footsteps or look forward to a time when they will.

Also not to be overlooked is the time and energy that dedicated IU Bloomington staff put into welcoming the campus’s new and returning students and the programs that have been carefully constructed to enable IU students to better connect with the people, places and services that can ensure a positive overall college experience. Indeed, the events and activities that make up IU Bloomington’s “Welcome Week” – including popular traditions like Freshman Induction, which, remarkably, began 80 years ago; CultureFest, a celebration of the many cultures represented at IU; and Traditions and Spirit of IU – have become vital components of a campus culture that emphasizes caring and community, engagement, personal responsibility, safety and Hoosier spirit.

Says Melanie Payne, senior associate director of IU’s First Year Experience Programs and director of New Student Orientation, “Welcome Week is more than a schedule of events. By going to events of Welcome Week – academic, social, large, small, required and optional – they are meeting people, learning the campus and exploring what is here to help them be successful as Hoosiers.”

While popular traditions like Freshman Induction, which will formally welcome the class of 2018, will continue this year, Welcome Week also will weave in messages and activities highlighting efforts related to IU Bloomington’s Culture of Care, a student- and staff-led initiative to foster greater care and awareness in the areas of sexual well-being, drug and alcohol usage, mental health and respect.

“Building upon messages from New Student Orientation of safety, community, personal responsibility and the Indiana Promise, we want our newest Hoosiers to understand they are part of a community that takes care of one another,” Payne says. “We hope to help them to be compassionate, engaged, aware members of the IU and Bloomington community by connecting with each other and their surroundings.”

As the Bloomington Herald-Times reported today, IU’s new international students are being made to feel at home through orientation and transition activities organized by the Office of International Services, First Year Experiences and Residential Programs and Services. They and other new students from Indiana and around the nation will have the opportunity to further acquaint themselves with IU through the popular RecFest, job fairs, open houses, Taste of the IMU (Indiana Memorial Union), academic advising opportunities, IU Guides support, IUBeginnings trips and numerous fun events, including late-night movies and shopping trips and the annual Welcome Week concert. A new social media contest even asks students to upload their favorite move-in images to win prizes.

IU’s newest students are already giving back, too. This year’s incoming class started its giving spirit at New Student Orientation by collectively donating 3,085 pounds of food to Hoosier Hills Food Bank to help feed the area’s hungry. What’s more, IU’s orientation staff expect that hundreds of new Hoosiers, who will participate in New Student Service Day, will donate their time to the Bloomington community, working with local agencies, to serve others in many different ways.

All in all, the events and activities of Welcome Week, which officially begins Wednesday, Aug. 20, are enough to excite even longtime Hoosiers like myself and infuse them with some serious IU pride.

A complete Welcome Week schedule is available online.

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