Activities greet new and returning WT students


By Chip Chandler

As students arrive at West Texas A&M University for the fall semester, they are being greeted with a four-week span of activities designed to get them immediately plugged into university life — and put them on a path to stay that way until graduation.

WT’s new Start Strong initiative, which kicked off Aug. 15, will offer both new and returning students multiple ways to make new friends and develop a sense of belonging at WT, said Amber Black, assistant vice president of Student Enrollment, Engagement and Success.

“Studies have shown that when students establish social connections during their first weeks in school, they are more likely to find success and graduate,” Black said. “Student well-being is our priority, and we want all students to feel welcome in the Buff family early in the semester.”

Start Strong Week 1 will encompass Move-In Day on Aug. 18 and 19, along with games like Capture the Flag, a scavenger hunt and more. The traditional Buff Branding event will run Aug. 18 to 21, culminating with the traditional Branding Ceremony, where new students’ T-shirts are stamped to show that they are now officially Buffaloes, echoing the branding on a cattle drive

Week 2 opens Aug. 22 with a concert by Grammy Award-winning rock band Switchfoot for WT students, faculty and staff in the First United Bank Center, plus a free screening of “Raya and the Last Dragon” on the east lawn of Cornette Library. Classes begin Aug. 23, but extracurricular fun continues all week with activities, games and free lunches.

Students will celebrate the end of their first week of classes with the First Friday Festival on Aug. 27, a new event that will feature activities from sunrise to midnight. The full schedule is available at wtamu.edu/firstfriday and includes sunrise Zumba, chalk art around Spirit Rock, a student talent show, a lunchtime concert, a pool party, live music, a late-night movie, glow volleyball and a fireside s’mores cookout at Buffalo Fountain.

“First Friday Festival is an event that WT has never seen before, but we hope it will become a tradition and make a lasting impression on campus,” said Ustina Gurguis, a SEES intern, Rogers LEAD WT Scholar and senior ag media and communication major from Daytona Beach, Fla. “The event is open to all students, and the goal is for all students to make long-lasting friendships and be a part of a new tradition. There is something for every Buff.”

Week 3 will continue offering frequent social activities, including lawn games, an open-mic night, the Student Services Fair and an e-sports game night. The week’s activities will conclude with the WT football team’s home opener against Texas College in Buffalo Stadium.

Week 4 will wrap in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s traditional Diversity Week activities. On tap: a We Are One talk with Dr. Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year and WT’s Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education, the F1RSTGEN Back to School Bash, a diversity student organization fair, a screening of “Trolls: World Tour” and a dance and karaoke party.

“The Division of Student Enrollment, Engagement and Success is all about student success,” Black said. “Every program and service we provide is about helping students complete their degree and achieve their purpose in a well-adjusted manner, and the Start Strong initiative will make sure we have plenty of on-ramps for students to get connected to campus and to each other.”

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