I recently had a very interesting experience … an intimate chat with 3,000 (yes 3,000!) freshmen students preparing to enter an entirely new phase of their young lives. I’m not sure “interesting” is the right word to truly describe this experience. Challenging might be a more descriptive word … or maybe frightening, or invigorating, or enlightening, or rewarding, or hopeful, or delightful. The more I reflect back on this day I guess I would have to say “all of the above.”
The day started differently than most for me due to the fact that I didn’t have to head to the airport. I enjoyed a peaceful 90-minute drive to the beautiful campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I made my way to the Miller Auditorium which is certainly a sight to behold. Built 41 years ago and seating 3,500 people, this enormous auditorium is still ranked as one of the top ten facilities in the United States, and is the third largest theater in the entire state of Michigan. This week-long event was facilitated by the talented and dedicated staff of the Fall Welcome Week in an effort to create a seamless transition for freshmen students as they begin their college career as proud Broncos at WMU.
Emphasis is placed on both academic and personal success for the students via a series of programs and events such as Pizza with the Profs, a Moonlight Stampede 3K Fun Run, a two-day move-in experience and many helpful sessions such as study strategies, critical thinking, campus policies and academic services, time management and wellness … to name just a few.
This experience is terrific for these energetic young people who are taking their first major step into adult life: college. Moving from a hometown high school environment to a college campus can be both terrifying and a great adventure for these freshmen. What they do in their first year of college can have a big impact on the rest of their college years—not to mention on the rest of their lives. It’s critical to establish a healthy balance of academic work, social activity, and just plain living—a balance that once established, will be much easier to maintain through the rest of college and into the future.
It was interesting to watch the students file into the auditorium singing and dancing in the aisles. It was, indeed, obvious that they were enjoying this week of Fall Welcome Week events. In that very large audience, I could see tall and short, boisterous and shy, a range of hair color that would put a rainbow to shame, and a sea of fantastic faces which causes one to pause and ponder. Looking at these young college freshmen, it was easy for me to see future doctors, lawyers, engineers, fire fighters, bankers, priests, military personnel, and I think I may have even spotted what may one day be our first female President of the U.S.
However, today they were freshmen preparing for an experience they’ll never forget and never regret! The efforts of the very dedicated Fall Welcome Week team will make certain of that. Upon completion of my 90- minute presentation, 3,000 students made their way out of the auditorium to continue their event-filled day. Many of the students were kind enough to approach me with words of thanks as well as questions and comments on the content of my program. Chatting with these students provided me with renewed faith in the future of our country. While facing great challenges in trying times, this class of 2013 will be ready and willing to make the necessary changes to maintain and enhance our leadership in the world.
It was such a pleasure to be a part of this program and be able to touch base with so many enthusiastic students again this year. It was also very rewarding to work with Adrienne Fraaza, Fall Welcome Week Coordinator, and Paige Warner, Administration Assistant, as they coordinated a very challenging schedule that will make this critical transition so successful and memorable for so many students. It’s so obvious that they love what they do and they do it so well! This program will obviously grow stronger every year!