The Evolution of MSU’s Welcome Week

2 09 2011

This year, Michigan State University welcomed the largest freshman class in its 156 year history. 7,800 excited, yet nervous, freshmen stepped onto campus and were welcomed into the residence halls on Sunday, August 28. The period between their move in and the first day of classes on Wednesday, marked the University’s “Fall Welcome 2011.” This period of time allowed the freshmen students to get acquainted with their new school, meet new friends, and prepare for college classes. Fall Welcome, believe it or not, still upholds the same traditions from when the concept was first conceived.

1955 not only marked the year of the changing of our school’s name to Michigan State University, but it was the year that Freshman Week was changed to Welcome Week.  Freshman Week began in 1925 and was established by the university administration and student governments as a way to introduce students to campus, the administration, extracurricular activities, standards and traditions, help newcomers become more quickly adjusted to the academic and social sides of MSU.  Different activities were organized for each of the seven days of the week.  These events were outlined in the university student handbook “The Helot.”

Welcome Week in 1955 was quite different then what it has become today.  Each day revolved around a series of different activities…

Day 1 – The week began with the Freshmen Convocation held at the Auditorium which welcomed the students to the university as well as gave them basic information about college courses. The President’s Welcome was the concluding point to this ceremony. This tradition still lives on today!

Day 2 – The second day was never fun for the incoming freshmen. This marked the beginning of the test and exams period which would last from day 2 to day 4. Each incoming freshman was required to take a certain amount of tests and exams in order to determine whether they have any academic deficiencies of special competencies. Can you imagine coming into a brand new university and being required to take a test on day two?? The second day was also a time for College open houses, campus tours, meetings for scholarship students, foreign students, and international students. This is often times when the cafeterias would host special dinners for both students and their parents.

Day 3 – Day three was devoted to enrollment and registration. This was the time period when students would choose their classes and make sure that they have the schedule that they need. Remember, no computers! – this was all done by hand. This would also be the day that the Associated Women Students organization was introduced to the incoming female freshmen and when the freshmen men were introduced to their dorm communities.

Day 4 – The fourth day of welcome week was definitely one of the highlights of the move in period. This was the day that the football preview took place. At the time, Coach Duffy Daugherty would run some football drills at Macklin Stadium and invite the incoming freshmen to come watch. The cheerleaders would lead the students in the college cheers and yells and teach them the ins and outs of our sports traditions.

Day 5 – The week was beginning to come to a close and Day 5 marked the day of two dances. The first would take place in the Union ballroom. This dance was a bit more formal than the other, an outdoor dance. The outdoor dance would take place outside on Delta Street between Grand River and Michigan Avenue. This seemed to be a favorite amongst students.

Day 6 – Day six marked the concluding events of the Welcome Week activities. On the final day, an all university dance was held at the Auditorium and was always well attended.

These traditions that were established at the Welcome Week in 1955 continued on for many years. Of course we see some changes over time. In 1960, a big component to Welcome Week was the introduction of the new coupon books. These cost the students $5 and included film tickets to 5 major films, 3 experimental (independent) films, and 7 classic films. They became a huge hit among students. In 1968 we see the introduction of the “Activities Carnival” which is similar to today’s Sparticipation. In 1970 we see the introduction of many new events: plays at Fairchild Theater, star shows at the Adler Planetarium, and concerts. This year also saw a change in the orientation programs which were now to be run by the individual residence halls. In 1996 Welcome Week hosted the largest ice-breaker to ever take place at MSU. The “MSU Power Connection ‘96” gave students the opportunity to learn how to create a supportive community as well as how to make connections without the use of alcohol. Over 6,000 students participated in the events. Also in 1996, President McPherson wanted to shorten Welcome Week to only 3 days and call it “Welcome Days,” however this proposal did not follow through.

Into the new millennium, we see events that are very familiar to many of the older seniors at MSU. Party at the Aud, Spartan Spirit Pep Rally,U-Fest, Super Saturday Night at the International Center, and Midnight Madness were just a few. In 2009, the administration once again decided to make a change to Welcome Week – and a drastic one at that. The welcome activities were changed from happening over a period of one week to a mere three days and were now a part of “Fall Welcome”. Administration felt as though the incoming students would still have enough time to meet friends and get acquainted with the university; however it would now take place in less time and happen more constructively. This Fall Welcome is what all new students have experienced the past three years. With events such as Sparticipation, U-Fest, Spartan Remix, and of course the traditional Freshmen Welcome.

In the next coming years, I’d be curious to see what else the University has in-store for the Fall Welcome. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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