Wildcat Welcome adds new programs continuing into Fall Quarter

Alice Yin, Reporter

In an effort to continue to support new students in their transition to Northwestern, the Office of New Student and Family Programs will host optional programming Fall Quarter that will extend beyond Wildcat Welcome.

Wildcat Weekends, a new program, will occur during the first four weekends of Fall Quarter and will be a mix of both new events and events that have happened previously on campus, such as Deering Days.

“What it is, is a limb, an extension of Wildcat Welcome,” said Joshua McKenzie, the director of the first year experience. “It is aimed to provide greater support and transition for our first-year students during the first four weekends of Fall Quarter.”

The Office of New Student and Family Programs also plans to work with other NU organizations such as NU Nights, the Center for Civic Engagement and NU in Chicago to put on Wildcat Weekends. 

“What I’m most excited about is that a lot of these conversations are happening,” McKenzie said. “It’s a first step, and that’s a huge win to build up a better support network for our students.”

Student feedback from the Class of 2017 indicated that after Wildcat Welcome ended, they felt the community was less connected and that diving straight into classes was overwhelming. The Office of First Year Experience hopes Wildcat Weekends will help orient new students into the actual NU experience beyond Wildcat Welcome, said Patricia Hilkert, director of new student and family programs.

“We can’t do everything during Wildcat Welcome,” Hilkert said. “We want our program to offer the right information at the right time instead of front-loading.”

Another new program the office is starting, called True Northwestern, will introduce a guided road map for first-year students. McKenzie said True Northwestern combines asking students “reflective-based questions” that explore their identity with connecting them to events in a “purposeful way.”

There are four different pillars of True Northwestern: “who am I,” “how do I navigate,” “how am I part of this community” and “how am I learning.” The guidebook will be followed up by email communication with the first-year students throughout the year to continue the conversation that the guidebook starts.

Aiming to help students take advantage of what NU has to offer, McKenzie said, the guide “encourages our students to stop for a second and reflect on who they are and what they want.”

“Many students had a lot of accomplishments before they got to Northwestern … (They) get here and say, ‘I guess I need to … check off all these things to be a ‘good student,’” McKenzie said. “What that does is lead to a lot of the challenges we’ve been facing.”

The First-Year Student Task Force, a group of about 25 freshmen in the class of 2017 who explored ways to improve the transition for new students, had a conversation on the lack of support after Wildcat Welcome. Their discussions and feedback contributed to portions of the final ideas of Wildcat Weekends and True Northwestern.

In addition, there will be expanded programming for mental health during Wildcat Welcome. NU will bring another mental health guest speaker, like last year, but it will extend that experience by scheduling breakout sessions between the students and their Peer Advisers, who will be trained by Counseling and Psychological Services on how to facilitate conversations on mental health. CAPS will also show a video of students talking about their own experiences with mental health.

“We want to normalize the issue of mental health and let students know it’s okay to have mental health issues and it’s okay to get help,” Hilkert said. “We’re all dealing with different issues … It’s fine if you need to talk to anybody even if you’re just stressed.”

Students will also be able to attend a men’s soccer game against DePaul University in addition to the football game during Wildcat Welcome. Instead of Rock the Beach at night, a daytime party at North Beach will be held the Monday before classes start. There will also be expanded programming for parent and family members, with the family ambassadors program doubling in size.

Email: aliceyin2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @alice__yin