Deafening noise filled Moody Coliseum Tuesday as nearly 800 students crowded onto a giant Twister board to take part in a long-standing Welcome Week tradition.
The number is not surprising, considering ACU is taking in more than 1000 freshmen this year, said Wade Huggins, Welcome Week student director and senior Biblical text major from Abilene. The “world’s largest game of Twister” was not the only event planned for this horde of new students.
This year’s Welcome Week began Monday and will continue until Saturday night, culminating in the annual Freshman Talent Show. Many of the scheduled activities are Welcome Week traditions, but the student directors decided to do something a little different this time, adding two new events.
One of the surprises was a general-education session dubbed ACU Mythbusters. The purpose of the course, Huggins said, was to dispel some of the rumors about classes at ACU. As part of the event, Dr. Brian Cavitt, associate professor of chemistry, and Randy Harris, instructor of Bible, missions and ministry, demonstrated what a college course is like.
“We wanted to show students that class at ACU doesn’t have to be what it looked like in high school,” Huggins said. “It’s not just lecture.”
The other new event was the Fun Run, a 5K marathon that took place Saturday. It also included a separate, shorter race with a prize awarded for the most creative mode of transportation.
“Hopefully, it becomes a cool tradition,” Huggins said. “We’re excited. We’ve been working, working, working, not seeing any students, and now we get to see them all excited and having fun.”
The First Year Program and the student directors planned the events, but the success of Welcome Week depended heavily on willing upperclassmen to volunteer as peer leaders and mentors.
“I had a great time at Welcome Week, and I want all the freshmen to have a great time,” said Tyler Allen, junior biology and business major from San Antonio and peer mentor for the political science University 100 group. “Welcome Week starts the year. If it’s not fun, the rest of the year won’t be fun.”
For students used to the college scene, Welcome Week was more about getting to know one another than the inner workings of the university. Alex Davis, senior psychology major from Denver, was the peer leader for a group of 16 transfer students.
“They’ll answer each other’s questions,” Davis said. “They got more information from each other that they’d learned themselves than we can offer. It’s cool to see that cohesiveness.”
That cohesiveness is exactly what drew incoming freshman Sarah Ratliff to ACU.
“I went to a small high school, so I didn’t want to go somewhere huge and have 400 people in my class,” said Ratliff, an English major from Lake Kiowa. “I love the family atmosphere here, and it’s what I grew up with. It felt like home to me.”
Feeling like home and actually being home are two different things, and many students already are finding creative ways to stay in touch with family and friends.
“I took two videos and a picture, and I’m going to put them on YouTube and send them to my family,” said Madison Dennis, freshman information systems major from New Braunfels. All that using his brand new iPhone, of course.
“I didn’t even know about the whole iPhone deal until Passport. Then they told me I needed to register for one,” Ratliff said. “I’m so glad I’m going to this school.”
While that was a pleasant surprise, students encountered some unpleasant ones, as well.
“I bought my books today, and it made me feel really bad,” Ratliff said. “I’m afraid to call my mom and tell her I spent $600.”
Even though not all Welcome Week events are mandatory, most students showed up for almost all the events, and seemed to be benefitting from it.
“I know my dorm, and not just the dorm but the people,” Dennis said. “I learned my way around after just two days.”
Apparently, two days are all it took for Dennis to become the de facto event planner in McKinzie Hall. He said they already had planned a movie night for every night that week, and he is not alone in making friends.
“When I think about Welcome Week, I think about what a blast we had,” Huggins said. “Some of my best friends I met during Welcome Week.”