Baylor’s mission and Christian foundation inform the cadence of the University experience from beginning to end. As a result, Baylor tends to do things differently than its peer institutions.
The Baylor experience is built from the moment a student arrives on campus. Attending Baylor Line Camp, living in a residence hall, sitting in the best seats at every home football game, running the Baylor Line and many more elements of being a Baylor student are all designed to welcome and celebrate the newest members of the Baylor Family.
Moreover, these events and traditions are largely organized, executed and led by the older students who are following the example set for them by the students who came before. A core part of fulfilling the mission of “educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service” means that Baylor students must understand what it means to display leadership through service.
This process of understanding and experiencing what servant leadership looks like has started during Baylor’s Welcome Week for more than 40 years. Welcome Week in the fall and Welcome Weekend in the spring mark the official beginning of a student’s time on campus as a Baylor Bear. It is a time set aside for all new undergraduates to join together in the days leading up to the start of the semester. Here, they develop friendships and build connections with the University.
Welcome Week started in August 1979 as a program to introduce students to Baylor and acclimate them to college life. The four-day event combined the previous orientation endeavors of the Student Congress with those of the Baptist Student Union. During those first sessions, more than 2,000 freshmen participated along with approximately 650 upperclassmen who volunteered to help run the event. Programming surrounding Welcome Week changed over the course of time with the varying needs of the student body, but some specific events and the guiding principles of developing the whole person — spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally — have always acted as foundational to the Welcome Week tradition.
Academic Convocation, an academic ceremony to formally welcome incoming students, has also long been a central part of Welcome Week bringing together administrators, faculty and students to commemorate the start of the academic year. Small Group, formerly known as min-con (mini conference) group, is another central piece of programming in which a group of new students is led by a pair of more senior students who guide them through the various events and programs. Getting to know faculty has taken on several forms, ranging from large-scale meet-and-greet events across campus to dinners held at faculty homes, depending on the year. There always has been some form of celebration filled with games and fellowship.
Welcome Week usually concludes with a prayerful worship service that focuses on gratitude and consideration of the journey ahead. Recently, this has been a candlelight service along the Brazos and a lesson-filled service led by the spiritual life department. Woven throughout Welcome Week is the unspoken understanding that the students in attendance will be responsible for continuing the tradition in future years with incoming first-year students. This long line of Baylor students welcoming the new class is an integral part of the Baylor experience.