More than 2,500 freshmen will immerse themselves in the UNCG experience this month. And lots of upperclassmen will help ensure these students get their college careers off to a super start.
Ben Huff will be one of many. Now a senior RA at the new Spartan Village, he recalls his first days as an “anxious and excited” newcomer to campus, just a few years ago.
“Seeing what the (orientation staff) did to make students feel comfortable, and what my small group leader did, made me want to help new students to feel that same sense of comfort and belonging, not only through SOAR, but their entire time at UNCG,” he says.
“And that is what I really hope that they felt during SOAR and what they will experience during August. That’s what the whole goal is: help students to feel the ‘home’ feeling of UNCG.”
Huff and his staff have been planning and working to make sure the incoming students feel welcome and ready for a great year. “We’re literally doing something bigger altogether.”
For him personally, it’s a great leadership opportunity – and a privilege. “I’m having a direct impact on students. I’m seeing students grow.”
Creating a supportive environment is not only a UNCG strength – it’s a forte of his.
A former RA in Cone Residence Hall and the Quad, Huff now oversees RA staff and programming at Spartan Village. Some students have intentionally followed him from hall to hall. Two younger students, inspired by his example, volunteered to welcome freshmen this year.
What does he like best about Rawkin’ Welcome Week? “Seeing all of the new students and their friends mixing and mingling with other new students – and returning upperclassmen as well.” And it’s always fun, he adds, when freshmen run into their former orientation leaders – they’ll break into a big smile and say, “You were my small group leader!” This year, Huff has been a New Student & Spartan Family Programs orientation coordinator.
Both new student orientation and RWW are part of the university’s Your First Year initiative, which helps ensure freshmen a successful beginning to their college careers.
More than two dozen students serve as SOAR staff throughout the summer, providing a fun and informative orientation experience. Then there’s a lot to do for all the activities for Rawkin’ Welcome Week.
This year’s events are highlighted by the Chancellor’s New Student Convocation and Charlie’s Fountain Fest on Aug. 18. Dozens of information sessions and fun gatherings are a part of RWW, including a comedy show and outdoor screenings, a carnival on the Quad – and Spartan Service Day, when students have an opportunity to serve the larger community while getting to know others.
Faculty and staff volunteer to help welcome the students as well – from carrying boxes on move-in days to visiting new students during “House Calls.” Plus 170 Spartan SPEARS, in their eye-catching lime green shirts, will be all over campus the first two days of classes, helping new students find their way.
The week is named for The Rawk, a campus landmark students use as a message board. It’s one of the many UNCG traditions the freshmen are learning about.
Mykia Stanberry-Crowde is one of those freshmen. Huff happened to select her from the crowd to be a part of a SOAR dance.
She’s a pre-health major and hopes to be an anesthesiologist. What is she looking forward to the most during the week? “To meeting new people,” she says, “and learning about different activities that I can get involved with to make my college experience better.”
By Mike Harris, University Relations
Photography by Chris English, University Relations