Baylor Welcomes New Students to CampusAug. 18, 2000
They came in SUV's, cars and rental trucks, their belongings packed neatly in plastic storage containers or tossed into trash bags and banana boxes. They hauled up the stairs and into their rooms everything from computers, television sets and refrigerators to teddy bears, toothpaste and photos of their family members and friends.
But thanks to a Baylor tradition, it didn't take long for Baylor's latest freshman class to get moved into their rooms and ready to begin a new chapter in their lives.
More than 2,800 freshmen are on campus for Welcome Week, a five-day long orientation event beginning Aug. 16 that emphasizes the intellectual, social, physical and spiritual aspects of college life and acquaints students with Baylor, its traditions, faculty and administrators. Activities include picnics, pep rallies, academic seminars, a mass community service project and a candlelight vigil. Fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 21.
The saying goes, "You only get one chance to make a good impression."
For many of Baylor's newest students and their parents, their impression of Baylor began the second they pulled their car up to the curb.
"I went to the University of Texas, and we didn't have any of this," said Amy Farr, who moved her daughter, Kristin, into Russell Hall Wednesday morning. She found herself pleasantly surprised at the difference between her college experience and the first few moments of her daughter's. "It's nice have a smaller feel and have people greet you and help you out. It's a very friendly atmosphere."
Welcome Week staff members are assigned to help freshmen carry their belongings to their rooms, and they waste no time getting to the task at hand, explained Baylor vice president for student life Steve Moore.
"I was over at Russell Hall a minute ago, and a car pulls up, four students descend on it, the whole car is on the curb in about five minutes, and the parents are just amazed," Moore said. "The great thing is that returning students, who all have been through this, have the opportunity to step on the other side and welcome people in the way they've been welcomed. And the reason it works so well is that people have been welcomed so well."
Welcome Week steering committee members, like program co-chair Jeff Goodman, a senior religion major from San Angelo, spent the spring and summer semesters planning the week's events and coordinating the work of the move-in volunteers.
"The staff have really been enjoying helping the new students move in, and I really think that the new students are excited about coming to Baylor," said Goodman, a min-con leader his sophomore year. "A lot of the parents have expressed their appreciation. It's always nice to be welcomed by somebody helping you carry your stuff into your dorm room and getting it all set up."
Staff member Tori Blanton, a junior from Richardson, stayed under a tent on the front lawn of Penland, registering freshmen for Welcome Week. She said she vividly recalls being "scared out of my mind" her first day at Baylor.
"My parents helped me put my stuff in my room and then left. Welcome Week people helped a lot carrying things up the whole six floors of Collins when the elevator was busy the whole time, and they helped me feel comfortable," Blanton said. "My leaders during Welcome Week dropped cookies by my room the second day and just said welcome to Baylor. That was huge."
Adrienne Little, senior from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and assistant director of North Russell Hall, spent Wednesday greeting her new charges with a friendly smile. She also harkened upon her first days at Baylor as a student thousands of miles from home.
"I lived here my freshman year and we lined up outside at six o'clock this morning just like the girls did today," she said. "We parked in the center of Russell and we opened our trunk and everything was gone in about ten minutes. Everybody with Welcome Week was very helpful and excited that we were here. It made it a lot easier."
Sam and Fannie Okonkwo drove up from Houston to help their son, Obinna, who plans to major in biology, get settled into his room at Baylor Plaza.
"I'm really impressed with the conditions, considering when I went to school and how things were. We haven't run into a problem yet and I hope it continues that way," said Sam Okonkwo.
It also helps when parents and students, arms full of boxes and bags and rolls of carpet, are welcomed through the front door of a residence hall by Welcome Week volunteers, such as Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and vice president for human resources Marilyn Crone.
Sloan spent most of Wednesday morning as the "official doorstop" at Penland and Martin halls before walking over to Russell to greet incoming freshmen.
"You feel kind of helpless at times, and I think surely I can do more than hold this door, but people seem happy that I am [holding the door] when they come up with their arms full," he laughed. "Move-in day is really a great opportunity for a first impression. Of course, many of the students have been on campus before and been to various forms of orientation, but this is the official first day for many of them, and to me, a smiling face, to have someone say hello and welcome, whether it's hold the door or grab a box, it just changes the spirit and morale of the entire day."
Steve Johnson of Marlin was waiting to move his son, Will, into Penland Hall when he caught a glimpse of Sloan holding open the hall's front doors for parents and students.
"My wife and I both went here to graduate school so we're kind of used to seeing the president, but it was still pretty impressive to see him standing in the doorway," Johnson said.
Crone, a Baylor alumnus who joined the administration in 1998, said her Welcome Week participation brings her great joy each year. Her responsibilities at the always busy Collins Hall were to hold the front doors open while she handed out registration slips and gave directions to students and their parents once they went inside.
"I get to welcome these students here, I get to help make their first experience or first impression a little better - and they are fired up about being here - and I get to meet their parents," said Crone. "This is what Baylor is all about. Sharing these students' excitement is incredible."
Moore, who moved between halls in a diesel-powered golf cart filled with iced down bottles of water, said he was mistakened more than a few times as a "Mr. Fix-It."
"I had a mother ask me this morning if I worked for plant services because the electrical switch in her son's room wasn't working," he laughed. "Unfortunately, I'm not an electrician and I couldn't help at all!" But Moore said he made it a priority to find someone who could.
Later in the day, when a new student stopped him with questions about adding a course, Moore made a few phone calls and the freshman was on his way to Robinson Tower where a registration staff member was waiting for him.
Parents Say Goodbye
Johnson said although his son is ready for life on his own, he and his wife are having a harder time letting go. But they know their son's time has come.
"We hope that he gets everything out of Baylor we sent him here to get - the environment, learning about different people, a good education, but so much of that education comes outside of the classroom. That's why he's here," Johnson said.
Incoming freshman Erika Walter of Lorena will most likely see one of her parents on a daily basis. She has moved away from home but plans to work in the McLane Student Life Center where her father, Jeff Walter, is the facility coordinator.
"He's excited that I chose to come here. In no way did my parents say you have to go to Baylor. It was my choice," she said. "Baylor's a great school and I'm going to get a great education and I love the Christian environment. Even though I'm close to home, it's still different because it won't ever be the same again when I go back."
Life won't be the same again for most parents and students, said Baylor's president.
Sloan, who has experienced Welcome Week as a student, faculty member, parent and president, said although the hearty welcome to Baylor helps with the transition, it's a difficult day for parents.
"It's hard because parents are saying goodbye probably to one of their greatest treasures," Sloan said. "Even though they'll usually have a happy exterior, they're as nervous as they can be underneath because of all the changes.
He added, "I think this day is important as we do our best to show parents and students that this is going to work, you're going to be alright, you're coming to a place that loves you and cares about you."