First-year PAs plan for hybrid Wildcat Welcome, after going through fully virtual experience last year


While the Class of 2024 never got to physically March Through the Arch, the tradition will likely return for the Class of 2025.

Samantha Anderer, Reporter

Northwestern Peer Advisers are currently planning Wildcat Welcome for the class of 2025. For first-year Peer Advisers, they are planning for a partially in-person orientation they have never experienced themselves.

Following a decline in on-campus COVID-19 cases and the introduction of a vaccination requirement for the fall, New Student Experience is planning for Wildcat Welcome to include hybrid programming. Most of the logistics  are still in the works, according to junior Jiarui Yu, director of Bienen on the Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors.

“Everything is subject to change,” Yu said. “We have to consider how the COVID-19 policy changes over the summer, so that’s adding another layer.”

While in-person programming may serve as a welcoming indicator of normalcy, some first-year PAs anticipate some difficulties after only having experienced Wildcat Welcome on Zoom.

Yu, who served as a PA for one in-person Wildcat Welcome and one online, said the differences between the two formats could be an obstacle for first-year PAs.

“It’s kind of hard to envision how to navigate in-person Wildcat Welcome if you’ve only experienced the online version,” Yu said. “That’s something both the Board and the PA community have to learn from each other.”

Along with limited experience of Wildcat Welcome, most first-year PAs have only lived on campus for two quarters. Medill freshman and PA Mia Walvoord is concerned she might not be able to answer all of her students’ questions.

“I am just a freshman, (so) I haven’t experienced that much,” she said. “I’ve experienced even less since I’ve been a freshman during the pandemic.”

However, Walvoord said, she feels confident in her ability to give general advice, including navigating University websites like CAESAR and picking classes to fulfill Medill distribution requirements.

Reflecting his own two years of experience as a PA, Yu also said he feels confident in the first-year PAs’ ability to advise new students. Knowing how to get around campus is a small part of a PA’s duties, compared to the task of empathizing and forming relationships with group members, Yu added. 

“I do feel like there are many skills that are transferable, no matter if you’re doing in-person or online, such as how to navigate the workload, how to communicate to people,” he said.

The board has been understanding of the unusual circumstances that this year’s PAs face and have created an encouraging environment, Weinberg freshman PA Rachel Schaefer said. At this point, there’s no pressure for the PAs to know all of the ins and outs, she added.

“They really emphasize that you just have to put in your best effort, and that’s all that they really require,” Schaefer said “You just need the right energy and positivity.”

Schaefer said she is also considering the ways her abnormal first-year experience can serve as an asset instead of a disadvantage. Her experience navigating a virtual environment will help her relate to her PA group, she said. 

Yu, who is on the Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors, agreed that there are definitely some positive lessons that the Class of 2024 has learned from their pandemic-affected freshman year, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Not being here physically on campus can actually provide them with a new perspective,” he said. “That could be used as a really good reference point to remind us everybody’s Northwestern direction is different on campus.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SammyAnderer

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