Seven students took on the challenge to revamp Welcome Week, a tradition started in the 80s, and change it for the better.
Alex Abston, Bailey Cate, Courtney Spink, Trey Jackson, Garon Goodspeed, Lane Luttrell and Lorena Ponce were named Wildcat Week student directors at the end of last semester and worked through the summer to create a new and improved tradition.
What was once known as Welcome Week, Wildcat Week focuses more on teaching new students the basics of being a Wildcat while acclimating them to campus.
Some of the prominent changes included doing away with the colossal Twister game, changing the date of Candlelight Devotional and creating a new logo.
Caddie Coupe, director of new student programs, is in charge of The Seven, a name given to the student directors. Coupe played an instrumental role in changing the freshman-oriented tradition.
“I think ACU had a really great thing with Welcome Week, but I think it was time to do a renovation, an upgrade if you will,” she said. “So we decided we wanted to go back to the basics of our university, and we wanted to instill Wildcat pride from the very beginning.”
To start the process, Coupe went to different offices on campus including the provost’s office and the Office of Student Life.
“They both felt like it was time for that change to happen,” she said. “There was a true leadership team of staff and faculty to make bigger decisions, like changing the name and shortening and changing move-in. This was a big process among several students, several faculty and staff that wanted change and that wanted us to move forward.”
Before major changes were made, students were polled to see what traditions were most important to them, though it didn’t make letting go of those traditions any easier.
“It has been hard for some people, but when they hear that this is what the students want and are excited, then people are willing to listen,” Coupe said, “especially when we tell them we surveyed students, we surveyed faculty and staff, we’ve done benchmarking with other universities and other institutions similar to our size and similar to our region and have that data.”
One of the biggest changes is the increase in student leaders. Coupe said the amount has doubled to accommodate the large freshman class and changes that were made.
Cate, senior communication major from Fremont, Nebraska, was mentor group leader as a sophomore and was on the steering committee last year.
“There are things that we want to hold on to, but at the same time it’s time to try something new,” Cate said. “These freshmen need something that’s a little more modern to get them up with the rest of the university. It’s exciting that we’re Div. I now, so we’re rising to the challenge.”
Leaving traditions behind, such as departmental dinners and the mentor group service project, was challenging for the group, but to achieve their vision, they made the decision to do so.
“The tough decision is not between good or bad, it’s between good and best, or better,” said Luttrell, junior biblical studies major from Colleyville. “I think when we were trying to transition from what was good to what we thought was better, some people thought that that thing was better, so the hard decision is not only hard to make, but it’s hard to get others on board with it. We just had to look not just for this year but for years on.”
Despite opposition, Wildcat Week commenced successfully.
Ponce, senior psychology major from Abilene, has been involved with Welcome Week leadership since she was eligible to fill out an application. Like Cate, Ponce worked as a mentor group leader and on the steering committee and said she used her experience to make incoming students’ transition as smooth – and fun – as possible.
Abston, senior pre-law communication major from The Woodlands, is a veteran student director and was a Welcome Week mentor group leader as a sophomore.
“Welcome Week, when I started as a freshman, was my favorite week of the whole year,” she said. “Still, even as a senior, Welcome Week is one of my favorite memories of my entire ACU experience. It’s been reenergizing for all of us, specifically the excitement in the Wildcat leaders and how the attitude of current students has almost just flipped a switch.”
Spink, a first generation ACU student, went into the experience with a slightly different set of eyes.
“I thought Welcome Week was so much fun; I didn’t know anything different, I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” she said. “Then the next year, I hurried up and signed up to be a leader because I thought it would be the funnest thing ever.”
Spink participated in Welcome Week as a mentor group leader for two years before she was asked to apply to be a student director.
“I was planning on being a Welcome Week leader again, and Caddie was like ‘Hey, I think you’d be great at this,'” she said. “I was like “Oh my gosh, that’s so not for me; I don’t like budgets, I don’t do that, but I love this week so much that I’d do anything I could for it.”
In spite of her apprehension, Spink applied for the position and said she’s thrilled she made The Seven, an excitement echoed throughout the group.
Jackson, junior graphic design major from North Richland Hills, said he has a new appreciation for the time and effort put in behind-the-scenes to make the five-day program operate. Like Luttrell, this was Jackson’s first time involved with the decades-old tradition.
Though they were new to the scene, Luttrell said it was working with the rest of the group that made the transition as smooth as it was.
“Being a student director this year was kind of like coming into it fresh and just straight off the cuff,” he said. “Being with these people has helped me out a ton; they know what they’re doing.”
With the new Wildcat Week schedule that included a number of new events, the group said they hope to have helped rewrite history.
“I hope we can look back and say ‘Wow, we had a great leadership team and that we all bonded and we worked hard to create something that is still around,’ like Candlelight Devo level,” Abston said, “like creating experiences for students, whether that be through social media and trying to understand the students in that way, or if it’s just modernizing outdated, but still good, activities. I think it’s really important for us to keep in mind that it’s about the students.”