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%09Wilma+Wildcat+poses+with+two+incoming+freshmen+at+the+2011+UA+Phoenix+Summer+Send-Off.+More+than+1%2C400+incoming+freshmen+attended+the+event+along+with+their+families.
Matt Lewis

Wilma Wildcat poses with two incoming freshmen at the 2011 UA Phoenix Summer Send-Off. More than 1,400 incoming freshmen attended the event along with their families.

PHOENIX — The last time there were so many Wildcats together in Sun Devil territory was when the UA men’s basketball team made it to the Elite Eight.

More than 1,400 incoming freshmen, friends and family showed up on July 31 for the 2011 Phoenix Summer Send-Off at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort to get immersed in all things red and blue. The Pride of Arizona marching band played the fight song, which nearly drowned out the crowd’s chants of, “U of A … U of A.”

Incoming students could get information about a Zona Zoo sports pass, stock up on UA gear and mingle with other future Wildcats. Those who were awarded the Wildcat Mac Scholarship were also able to pick up their MacBooks or iPads, which was part of the scholarship package. The scholarship is awarded based on academic achievement, as well as other factors decided on by the selection committee. Summer send-offs, and other similar events, serve as a way for future students to get to know their new school better. It also presents an opportunity to meet some of their peers before classes start on Aug. 22.

Mark Strickling, regional director of the UA Alumni Association’s Phoenix office, said the event has grown each year from about 500 students at the first send-off four years ago.
He described the event as “stellar and exhilarating.”

“People are telling me ‘I’m pleased that my son or daughter is going to the U of A,’” Strickling said.
He added that many Phoenician students choose the UA because it is an opportunity for them to grow away from home, but still be close enough should they need the support of friends and family.

Kathy Riester, assistant dean of students, added that the university also has many quality programs and support functions outside the classroom. There are 24 cities around the country where the UA Parents and Family Association hosts send-off events, which are free of charge. According to the UA Alumni Association’s website, send-off events have been held around the country for 20 years, including in Phoenix.

Brian Segal, a 1979 alumnus, came to the event to show his support for the Alumni Association and also for his son, Jacob, who will be an engineering freshman.

“We wanted to get him fired up,” Brian Segal said about his son. “It (school) is right around the corner.”

For Jacob Segal, the choice to go to the UA was pretty simple.

“If he wanted us to pay for it, he was going to Tucson,” Brian Segal joked. “If he wanted to pay for it, he could have gone anywhere.”

The Wildcat lineage runs deep in the Segal family. Both of Jacob Segal’s parents and his fraternal grandparents attended the UA.

While some viewed going to the UA as a given, others weighed their options before choosing Arizona.

Sierra Kneller and Anna Rajnisz, friends from Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, will be freshmen this fall. They chose the UA because of their interest in the College of Medicine.

Kneller will major in biology, while Rajnisz will study biochemistry. Both said they liked the high ranking of the college and also the Tucson weather. Both considered Arizona’s other public universities and Kneller even looked at a few schools in California, but ultimately decided Tucson was their best bet.

Kneller said she came to the send-off because she wanted to get involved. Both girls expressed a desire for school to start, adding that they had a countdown until the beginning of classes.

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