Smaller gatherings, virtual events help IU safely greet freshmen during extended Weeks of Welcome

Reciting the Indiana Promise with classmates in the IU Auditorium during the Freshman Induction Ceremony. Gathering in the Fine Arts Plaza to eat food and watch performances from around the world at CultureFest. Packing into Memorial Stadium to learn the IU fight song and cheers during the Traditions and Spirit event. For years, these moments have been the hallmark of Indiana University Bloomington's Welcome Week, a series of events that help students prepare for a successful year and experience what it means to be an IU student.

Herman B Wells statue with a mask onView print quality image
Being an IU student will look very different this year, but a reimagined Weeks of Welcome will prepare students for what to expect on campus. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

But this year, being an IU student will look different. A reimagined Weeks of Welcome -- extended to accommodate this year's staggered and de-densified move-in process -- will prepare students for what to expect on campus. And while the hallmark events many associate with going back to school in Bloomington may not look exactly the same, director of First Year Experience Programs Melanie Payne said they will serve the same purposes.

The Freshman Induction Ceremony, the first event of Weeks of Welcome, took place virtually on Aug. 2. This is the only large Weeks of Welcome event that involves parents, but not all family members have been able to attend in the past due to early move-in. This year, students were able to be officially inducted into the freshman class at their homes, surrounded by their loved ones. Some social media posts from the event showed generations of IU alumni welcoming new Hoosiers into the IU family.

As for CultureFest, Payne said that even though the event will not look like it has in years past, the themes at the core of CultureFest are more important than ever this year.

"The purpose of the CultureFest event has always been to help students explore the idea that they are not the only type of person at Indiana University or in the world," Payne said. "We are hoping to harness the energy around social justice and anti-racism conversations that have been happening this summer."

To continue these conversations, Weeks of Welcome will feature a virtual panel discussion with IU students moderated by Monica Johnson, university director of diversity education and cross-cultural engagement, on Aug. 20. A diverse group of students will share what their experiences at IU have been like, when they have felt less than welcome and what all students can do to be part of a welcoming, engaged and anti-racist IU community.

Culture centers across campus will also be hosting Ask Me Anything livestreams on social media, as well as virtual open houses. Payne said the Office of First Year Experience Programs is looking for safe ways to host the performances that are typically offered during CultureFest throughout August.

The Traditions and Spirit event, which typically takes place at Memorial Stadium or Assembly Hall, will show new students virtually what being a Hoosier fan is all about this year. During this event, students will hear music from the IU Marching Hundred, learn the IU fight song, "Indiana, Our Indiana," practice some IU cheers and watch a video welcome from the IU Athletics coaching staff. This will be a preview of an in-person event that will be hosted when gathering in sports venues across campus is once again safe.

Other Welcome Week institutions like RecFest, the IU Jobs Fair, and Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll will be deconstructed into smaller, virtual events throughout the month. The Student Involvement and Leadership Center will also provide students with a variety of ways to safely connect with any of the hundreds of student organizations on campus.

Beyond becoming familiar with campus, Weeks of Welcome programming is about making new friends. And even thought students won't be able to gather in large groups this year, they'll have plenty of opportunities to find their Hoosier family. First Year Experience is helping students meet other new Hoosiers through a program called Crimson Connections. Students who sign up for the program will be placed in groups of eight to 10 freshmen who can gather online to play virtual trivia, hang out safely in small groups on campus or talk about how their transition to college life is going.

Students do not have to be living on campus to participate, and while there will be some ground rules, Payne said the groups will largely be what the students make of them. A Hoosier Experience staff member will be on hand to help the groups get started and check in every now and then, but the experience is meant to be casual. Payne said that more than 1,400 students had signed up for Crimson Connections in the days after the application went live.

Another new program, Beyond the Gates, will familiarize new students with the outdoor shopping, parks and trails offered throughout the Bloomington community. Participating local restaurants and businesses will be giving special deals and freebies to students, and will also be promoting other outdoor spaces to explore.

The event, which will be happening the weekend before classes start, will allow students to spread out and safely familiarize themselves with the community that is now their home. Payne said the hope is that by connecting students to the Bloomington community, they will better understand their responsibility as residents of Bloomington to follow protocols that limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"Some freshmen have never been to campus and are moving here sight unseen," Payne said. "I've lived here for decades and still get goosebumps walking through the Old Crescent. I'm thrilled that a whole new crop of people get to experience that.

"If we do this right, and if people come to this community and cooperate with safety protocols, I'm excited for students to breathe a little life back into Bloomington."

New students can download the IU FYE app and start adding Weeks of Welcome events to their calendar now. The Office of First Year Experience is still accepting submissions for Weeks of Welcome events. To learn more about how to host a Weeks of Welcome event, email fye@indiana.edu.

Fall 2020

Indiana University is looking forward to welcoming students, faculty and staff to the fall semester. The university has provided safety guidelines, an academic calendar, FAQs, and campus-specific guidance for move-in, testing, teaching and learning at fall2020.iu.edu.