After quiet summer months, college campuses come back to life in August. It can be easy to get caught up in the program components of a new year and miss the human element. The beginning of a school year marks the introduction of a new set of students (and faculty!) into your campus and the return of many others. Welcome week can set the tone for their entire college careers. We have three guidelines to start the year off in a way that makes people feel energized and engaged with your campus community:
Ask for input. Ask student leaders for their ideas and involvement for welcome week. Students often have a fresh perspective—and a desire to help—that can transform your back-to-school activities. The input should come before and after events; be sure to send out surveys to gain feedback on welcome week activities.
Create connections. Most welcome-back activities focus on the cohort of incoming freshman or the student body as a whole. While students should be foremost in your mind, your college community is made up of many groups. Welcome Week should include opportunities for the students, faculty, staff, and board to get to know one another. One of the schools that we work with hosts a back-to-school picnic to encourage connection in a casual environment.
Make a difference. Traditional ice-breaker activities can be overused or feel forced. Nothing brings a group together like undertaking a project. Consider facilitating volunteer opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to take part in together, such as spending the morning at a local community garden. It can also be a key way to highlight the wonderful work going on in your community.