More than 4,500 freshman students come out to the First Night Carolina celebration
University staff and faculty and more than 170 spirited upperclassmen volunteers welcomed this year’s 4,550-member freshman class in limited space of the Russell House Student Union during Saturday night’s First Night Carolina celebration. The evening marked the first signature event in a lineup of more than 150 planned activities for Carolina Welcome Week, which will run until Friday evening’s Carolina After Dark showcase.
For the second consecutive year, First Night Carolina was relocated from Williams-Brice Stadium to the Russell House due to weather advisory. This year, with a two-hour notice before planned departure time from the Russell, Student Life coordinators sprang into action with what they deemed a “more comprehensive rain plan” than last year, when first-years spent several idle minutes on stationary shuttle buses before being ushered back into the Russell House.
Carolina Productions (CP) Program Adviser Sarah Morgan quickly led the team of Student Life staff, CP volunteers and spirit leaders in transitioning the event into every available space in the Russell House.
“First Night Carolina is really all about creating a memory of the first night at college,” Russell House Director Kim McMahon said before the event. “It might not always be the memory we originally plan to create, but it’s a night you remember nonetheless.”
The First Night Carolina introduction was led in the Russell House Ballroom by Student Body executive officers Joe Wright, Katie Thompson and Emily Supil and Carolina Productions President Lee McKagen.
The lineup began with a rowdy tutorial from USC cheerleaders, who led the new students in spirited echoes of “Go, Cocks, Go” and the Carolina fight song.
Following a brief motivational welcome by Student Body President Joe Wright, men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley emerged onto the stage to prep students for a year of cheering on USC’s athletic teams. In celebration of what has been deemed USC’s brightest freshman class, Horn and Staley made known the priority of academics for their teams: Horn has seen every one of his players through to graduation, and Staley called forth her first-year players to hold herself accountable for their actions on and off campus.
Professor Larry Durstine, department chair of exercise science in the School of Public Health, also leapt onto the stage to give a shout-out to USC’s top-ranking psychology and public health programs and to challenge this year’s freshman class to keep up the academic standing by abandoning the fear to “go for extra credit” and “sit in the front row.”
Despite the crowds of first-year students trafficking through the Russell House, first-year nursing student Amber Baker and first-year psychology student Rebekah Benham enjoyed the opportunity to socialize, munch on free pizza and let loose after finally settling in.
“Seeing how much is going on and how many people are here, you can tell that a lot of effort went into putting this on and really appreciate it,” Baker said. “Everyone’s really friendly and really outgoing, and after all the stress of the day, it’s interesting to see what the school has to offer.”