Every year, new Wildcats gather the week before their first ACU classes to meet new friends, get acquainted with campus and learn the school’s traditional songs. And every year, a group of motivated students makes it happen, with hopes to give the incoming freshman class a fun and welcoming week to begin their college experience.
A team of eight student directors carry the responsibility of ensuring that new students have a safe and fun environment to make their first ACU memories. They spent the last nine months planning 30-plus team building and tradition-instilling events for the over 1,000 freshman and transfer students who participated in Wildcat Week.
Events throughout the week were not just all over campus, but all over Abilene. From bouncing at the trampoline park, to paddling at Lake Fort Phantom, to enjoying an on-campus carnival, the student directors facilitated a way for new students to get familiar with their college campus and town.
Planning so many events takes a lot of time and coordination. One of the directors is Sam Carter, a senior electrical engineering major from San Antonio. He said communication has been key in working with the university and different organizations to get all of the on campus events on the calendar.
“There’s just so much scheduling and planning that you have to do,” Carter said. “You basically have to be thinking 10 steps ahead.”
Although planning is a big part of the team’s job, the directors are in charge of many small behind-the-scenes details that go into making the week. Abby Young, senior advertising and public relations major from Skippack, Pennsylvania, is on the student director team this year. She said some of the extra details include choosing the curriculum for the mentor groups and training the mentor group leaders, setting up games like Nine Square for the group olympics and even making sure boats used for the olympics float in the pool.
“It’s the perfect crossover between the oversight and planning and the boots on the ground, nitty-gritty stuff of it,” Young said.
Although it is a lot of work, Young said it was important to her to give students a meaningful experience.
“I love the idea that I can give someone the feeling that they’re home, the feeling that I have had at ACU,” she said. “Something that a lot of the directors this year have been super intentional about trying with our leaders and with those around us is just trying to get to know everyone. Obviously we aren’t all going to know everyone, but I want people to feel like they can find a friend here, find a home here.”
Carter echoes Young’s determination to get to know the new students and make them feel welcome.
“I find the most joy in meeting the people that we [planned] all of these events for, and just donating 100% of my energy to all of the things that we are doing,” Carter said.
In the aftermath of a successful Wildcat Week, the directors’ hard work seems to have payed off. Emma Jaax, a junior accounting and finance major from San Antonio who participated in Wildcat Week as a peer group leader, expressed her appreciation for the enthusiasm the directors have brought to the student volunteers.
“They’re fantastic,” Jaax said. “I’ve really enjoyed their spirit and organization.”
Now that Wildcat Week 2022 is over, Student Life officials will begin the application process to choose next year’s Wildcat Week student directors in the coming fall months. The planning process will begin again, and a new group of dedicated directors will join the cycle in keeping ACU’s traditions alive.