Welcome Week 2021: Pitt students, staff prepare for start of in-person events

Students+can+celebrate+their+return+to+campus+with+a+slew+of+hybrid+in-person+and+virtual+events+at+this+year%E2%80%99s+Welcome+Week%2C+lasting+Aug.+21-29.

Image via Pitt Student Affairs

Students can celebrate their return to campus with a slew of hybrid in-person and virtual events at this year’s Welcome Week, lasting Aug. 21-29.

By Grace Stringer, Staff Writer

From racing around campus collecting clues and earning prizes at Pitt’s rendition of the “Amazing Race” to getting airbrush tattoos at the “Welcome Back Bash,” Pitt students can celebrate their return to campus this fall with a hybrid in-person and online Welcome Week.

Welcome Week will last from Aug. 21-29, kicking-off with a “Guided Campus Walking Tour.” This year will also feature several new events students can look forward to, including “Becoming a Sexual Citizen” on Aug. 24, “Get to Know Pitt Votes!” on Aug. 25 and “Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Students: A Resource Fair” on Aug. 26.

Breanne Donohue, interim director of New Student Programs, said Welcome Week will hopefully help students feel more connected to University life by exposing them to campus resources and teaching them Pitt traditions.

Events are scheduled every day during Welcome Week and, according to the Student Affairs website, the best way to stay involved and updated is to download the Guidebook app

On the app, students can search the “Pitt Welcome Week” guide and find campus maps, dining options, campus resources, information on campus safety and up-to-date schedule of events. A printed schedule of Welcome Week activities is also available and includes information on COVID-19 protocols for fall semester. 

In keeping with Pitt’s COVID-19 health guidelines, all students will be required to wear face coverings while indoors on campus beginning Aug. 9 and face coverings should be worn outdoors if the student is not fully vaccinated, is immunocompromised or lives with someone who is immunocompromised. Donohue said the Welcome Week staff will abide by the rules throughout the week. 

Since first-year students experienced Welcome Week completely online last year, this year’s festivities will feature multiple events targeted toward these now second-year students, such as “Second-Year Speed Friending” on Aug. 25 and “Second-Year Late Night Breakfast” on Aug. 27. 

Donohue said the Welcome Week staff met with a focus group of second-year students to consider their needs and recommendations for this year. The students said they wanted more opportunities to engage with their peers due to a lack of interaction during virtual events last year.

“We wanted to offer social events for second-year students who are still looking to connect and find community,” Donohue said. “As well as open up some of our traditional events to first-years to second-years, like Lantern Night and the Activities Fair.”

There are 10 events from Tuesday through Thursday that first-year students are required to attend, including academic programs, the New Student Convocation and Pep Rally and building-wide and floor meetings.

Hillel Jewish University Center, the center for Jewish campus life in Pittsburgh, will host several events throughout Welcome Week — starting with Shabbat on Aug. 20. Kari Semel, Janet L. Swanson director of Jewish Student Life at Pitt, said the Hillel staff is excited for Pitt students’ return to campus, especially with in-person events.

“A lot of the magic that happens at Hillel does happen because you have [one] hundred students coming together,” Semel said. “It definitely impacted our feelings of connectedness … getting to see the students all together.”

Semel said there are more Hillel events, including online events, than those that are listed in the Welcome Week schedule. She said students can follow Pitt Hillel’s Instagram or subscribe to Hillel’s newsletter for updates on events and links to event Zoom sessions.

“We’re trying to pick a mix of what really feels authentic and normal to what we do,” Semel said. “We’re really trying to have some type of virtual opportunity every day of the week.”

Monet Blackman, a First Year Mentor, said this year’s events were designed to make every student feel comfortable.

“We just want to make sure that everybody feels welcome and happy,” Blackman, a sophomore majoring in mass communication and Korean studies, said. “If you don’t want to come physically, you can always come virtually.”

According to Blackman, the FYMs play a major role in Welcome Week every year. They will host 14 events this year — such as Speed Friending on Aug. 22 and Murder Mystery on Aug. 25 — but can be found at all events. Blackman said one of the FYMs’ roles during Welcome Week is to aid in students’ transitional period from home to campus.

“I know how scary college can be, especially coming from high school or a different place,” she said. “It [is] really nice to have us First Year Mentors be that kind of bridge between getting students ready not only mentally, but physically for college.”

She added that the FYMs have Welcome Week and COVID-19 protocols under control and are ready to welcome students back to campus.

“This year has been really hard for everyone during COVID … but I would say we’re handling it pretty well,” Blackman said. “[We’re here] to represent our school and show people that Pitt is fierce and we love it here.”

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