Welcoming students home
By Mackenzie Grant
The first couple days students are living on campus are crucial. They're away from home, many for the first time, they're in a new place — a big, new place — and they're surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Chaunsia White says welcoming these students is the greatest gift the University of South Carolina can give them.
Welcome Week gives students the opportunity to sign up for clubs, meet people with similar interests and develop a sense of campus. As operations and events coordinator for the Russell House University Union, White plans and executes the events for the week.
"Welcome Week is important because, as Gamecocks, we always need to feel the traditions and make sure incoming Gamecocks know we are excited they're here," she says. "We want them to be involved."
As a Gamecock herself, White remembers the positive effect Welcome Week had on her as a freshman. She wants to recreate that experience for every new student at Carolina.
"I'm always reminiscing with my co-workers about USC and I want all students to have that same experience," she says.
All summer, White and her co-workers have been preparing for the events of Welcome Week, taking suggestions from students and brainstorming among themselves.
White worked as assistant program coordinator at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, as well as at the Georgia Dome, before returning to the place she felt most at home — Carolina.
While her roles include helping plan the majority of events put on by the Russell House, White says Welcome Week is her "baby."
"It's most difficult to put all the little pieces together. There are 171 events within Welcome Week," she says. "But it's worth it; this is my baby."
Among this year's events are a job fair, "I survived the first day of classes" cookout, PJs and pancakes party and White's favorite – First Night Carolina.
"I remember my 'First Night' in 2003. I remember it vividly," says White. "I want everyone to remember theirs."
A truly South Carolina-specific event for Welcome Week is called "What's the big deal about sweet tea?" Out-of-state students learn all about the South, Southern culture and Carolina traditions. There is plenty of sweet tea, of course, downhome cooking and even lessons on how to dance the shag — the official state dance.
From the necessary events, like campus tours, to the fun social events, like the hypnotist show, Welcome Week has something for everyone.
Before classes get in full swing, White hopes she can create an event that gets students excited about being on campus, about their new life in Columbia and about their fellow Gamecocks.
Visit the Welcome Week website to learn more about all the events planned for the first week back to school.
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