The Daily Gamecock

Welcome Week kicks off

More than 100 events set to usher in new semester

Stuck in the slow and quiet summer void of students, Russell House Director Kim McMahon and Event Services Coordinator Ryan Gross have been marking the days until freshmen return. For them, the arrival of what the Office of Admissions has deemed USC’s “biggest and brightest” freshman class means the start of a whirlwind Carolina Welcome Week, which from Saturday, Aug. 13 to Friday, Aug. 19 will brim with performances, games, prize giveaways, heavy recruiting and plenty of free T-shirts, food and drink koozies.

This attitude of anticipation underlines the theme of this year’s 25th annual Carolina Welcome Week, subtitled “We’ve been waiting for you!” While McMahon says each year brings its own unique first-week experiences, the format for Welcome Week traditionally strives to introduce students to the three main facets of campus life: academics, community building and service.

“The impact your first 10 days on campus is tremendous,” Gross said. “Those opportunities you have to interact with professors, university departments and other students really can’t be understated.”

This year’s Welcome Week features more than 115 events, organized and sponsored by more than 25 organizations and offices. They range from the 18th consecutive performance by hypnotist Michael C. Anthony to small-scale cookouts with USC’s various religious and minority organizations.

Student groups such as the Association of African American Students, which will host a block party outside the Russell House on Aug. 17, view Welcome Week as an opportunity to define and market themselves to incoming students searching for ways to get involved.

“Each organization ideally brings its own activity that showcases its personality,” said Anthony Gomez, a fourth-year psychology student and president of AAAS. “For us, we want to show new students that AAAS can be their niche — their home away from home. We also want to break down the misconception that [AAAS] is only a ‘black thing’ and show that we’re really a multicultural organization.”

Offices within the Student Life Department will put on some of Welcome Week’s large-scale evening social events, including First Night Carolina at the end of Move-In Day, Bustle at the Russell on Aug. 15 and Carolina After Dark on Aug. 19. Returning academic-focused activities are the New Student Convocation on Aug. 14 and the First-Year Reading Experience on Aug. 15. Students can learn how to get involved, both on campus and in the Columbia community, at events such as Monday’s Student Media showcase, Tuesday’s Opportunity Knocks part-time job fair and Thursday’s Merchants’ Fair.

While first-semester freshmen usually comprise 90 percent of attendance at signature events, according to McMahon, Welcome Week will also feature a Transfer-Student Welcome at the Student Success Center, a Commuter Plug-In at Russell House’s new off-campus student lounge and a Welcome Back concert featuring current and returning Gamecock performers. McMahon encourages both new and returning students to take advantage of Welcome Week’s networking opportunities and revel in this week of celebration.

“Coming to college as a first-year student is a defining moment,” McMahon said. “So is coming back and moving into your first apartment or coming as a transfer student. People look for touchstones at those defining moments to keep them grounded during all that nervousness and change, and Carolina Welcome is meant to help you find your touchstones, so you can exhale before that first day of class and know that you’ve made the best decision you can make.”