The Franklin Institute welcoming incoming Drexel students during the University's 2019 Welcome Week. This year, Welcome Week will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thomas Kiesnowski, an entrepreneurship and innovation major about to start his final year at Drexel University, had so much fun at one of the Welcome Week events that kicked off his first year as a Dragon that he joined the student organization that sponsors it.
Now, Kiesnowski is the president of that organization (called The Good Idea Fund), and is spearheading the planning of the First Bash event for this year’s incoming class — though it’s going to look different than it did during his Welcome Week.
“This year, unfortunately, COVID-19 has kind of changed everything, and we are no longer able to meet in person and have the typical First Bash experience,” he said. “But we're really hoping to replicate the effect of what First Bash does for the students, which is to provide a space for the classmates to get to know each other, to make friends. … For me, it was certainly formative in establishing my friend group and making me feel welcome at Drexel University.”
This year’s Virtual First Bash from 6–10 p.m. on Sept. 14 will feature music bingo, trivia games, esports tournaments, poetry slams and virtual escape rooms in place of how the event usually looks when held on campus. Figuring out engaging ways online to still hold most of Welcome Week’s cornerstone events was how many of the annual organizers including Student Life representatives, current student leaders and college and school administrators approached providing this year’s incoming students with a successful first week as Dragons.
“We encouraged people to think outside the box,” said Kaitlyn Delengowski, director of special events for Enrollment Management & Student Success. “One of the luxuries of having a virtual Welcome Week is that we're not fighting over space. So, we're really able to offer more programming concurrently and open it up to larger populations.”
There will be more than 250 virtual sessions from Sept. 12–20 for incoming students to participate in from during this year’s Welcome Week. Here are some suggestions of what to pre-register for in four key categories to ensure you get the most out of what Drexel’s first virtual Welcome Week has to offer:
Aside from First Bash, another social event you’ll want to pre-register for right away is Virtual $1,000 Drag Bingo being hosted virtually by Shea Coulee, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 5. The event, featuring $1,000 in prizes, will take place from 9–10:30 p.m. on Sept. 16.
There’s plenty more ways throughout the week to connect with your fellow Dragons, and maybe win a prize or two! Be sure to add these events to your personalized Welcome Week schedule through your DrexelOne account or mobile app as there are caps on how many students can participate in each event. Zoom links for all Welcome Week events will be sent directly from presenters to those who have pre-registered.
Though Welcome Week programming aims to foster early connections amongst incoming Dragons, it also serves to connect students with their own individual colleges and schools as well as academic resources before the first day of classes. The key event for this is College Day, taking place this year on Sept. 15, when each entity provides its own events for their students to take part in. Examples of College Day 2020 virtual programming include the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design hosting a contemporary dance class; the College of Nursing and Health Professions holding a nutrition, exercise and mindfulness session called “A Student Guide to Going Zen;” and the Close School of Entrepreneurship giving student groups the chance to present mock business pitches and gain feedback from faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs. Be sure to register for your college or school’s activities via DrexelOne. Tip! If you’re having trouble in the app, try switching your view to the Academic track.
For more general academic support, The Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS) will provide a variety of “Ready. Set. College!” virtual programming to help incoming students navigate topics like the transition from high school to college, learning the essential elements of a course syllabus, and identifying support networks and potential mentors. Attend any of these sessions that are still available for an in-depth academic introduction to college life, and keep up with programming offered by CLASS throughout the year.
A key way to get involved at Drexel is to meet and engage with fellow Dragons to start finding how you fit into the intricate framework of the campus community. To get a jumpstart on this during Welcome Week, incoming students can attend programs hosted by student organizations they may be interested in joining.
For First Bash, Kiesnowski said his organization had to rely on other student groups more than ever this year to help fill out the night’s events, such as the Drexel Esports & Gaming Association hosting esports tournaments and the Drexel Art Organization doing a Zoom art recreation of famous works.
“We're really having to rely on other student orgs to tell us what creative ideas can we give to students in this virtual setting with all the limitations in order to make the event still the experience that we want it to be for our first-year students,” he added.
New Dragons can peruse and preregister for a variety of additional standalone events taking place throughout the week, including Virtual Problem Solving with Engineers Without Borders, a Virtual Pajama Party & Jam Session with the Queer Student Union and Vision Board Making with the Drexel Black Student Union.
For those students who may be interested in joining Greek Life at Drexel, attend the Virtual Fraternity/Sorority Fair which will take the place of the annual “Night on the Row” event held previously on campus.
By joining this virtual fair, incoming students can log on to ask general questions about Drexel’s fraternities and sororities, review information and contact chapters, and even chat live with representatives from a variety of organizations before they begin virtual recruitment processes later in the fall term.
Todd Sullivan, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life within Student Life, said even though the in-person nature of this annual Welcome Week event will be missed, he hopes that this virtual iteration might also be a more low-key and less stressful way to introduce facilitate new student meetings with Greek organizations.
“Sometimes people can be really worried about showing up physically to an event that they might feel that they've got to get all dressed up for and worry about who they're going with, [plus] going to walk up to a table or knocking on a fraternity or sorority house door,” he said. “There can be a lot of social anxiety there. There could certainly be some anxiety in a virtual environment, but I think the opportunity to get right into a conversation with somebody can be really helpful and can be more accessible.”
The virtual nature of this year’s Welcome Week may also mean students can fit in more information sessions about general resources at Drexel to help them make the smoothest transition possible into college life. Browse the full schedule for the events that seem most helpful to you, and also keep an eye out for these key workshops:
- Virtual Open Houses offered by the Steinbright Career Development Center to learn everything this important Drexel resource has to offer, from co-op to career advising, major exploration and resume support.
- Worship nights, faith seminars and social events to learn more about interfaith offerings and Spiritual & Religious Life at Drexel.
- Virtual Let’s Talk about Mental Health sessions to learn more about the Counseling Center and how to maintain emotional well-being considering college stressors as well as difficulties during the present time of political unrest, social injustice and COVID-19.
- Virtual Doing IT Right sessions to help students learn how to use information technology responsibly and not fall victim to cyber scams and crimes.
- Virtual Budgeting and Saving with Wells Fargo, to learn money-managing tips and how to create a savings plan for financial goals.
All in all, there is no real way to do Welcome Week wrong as long as you’re engaged. Delengowski said that everyone at Drexel is working to ensure that students feel connected and engaged despite not being together on campus this fall.
“We know things have changed and things have changed quickly, but we're still working across campus to make sure that they really feel like Dragons even if they’re Digital Dragons for [now],” she said. “…You're going to have stories to tell about your first few weeks as a first-year student at Drexel. It's not going to look like anybody else's first year on campus, but it's still really important to make the most out of any situation that we're put in. So, I would say really look at it as an opportunity to think outside the box and how you can create those connections and really look at what the positives are.”
Sullivan added that it’s important to start making these important connections now despite the virtual nature of the start to this new academic year.
“New students and continuing students are excited to connect with each other in some way,” he said. “And so, [students should] do their best to move beyond some of the awkwardness or even embrace some of the awkwardness, get out there and try to connect virtually so that they can have some connections when we do return to a more in-person experience.”
Kiesnowski hopes that this year’s Welcome Week programming, and First Bash specifically, will showcase that virtual programming can be both meaningful and successful, and provide unique experiences for incoming Dragons.
“College is 100 percent an investment. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it,” he said. “So, I would encourage students to be engaged with Drexel’s student community early in order to get the maximum out of their college experience.”