The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

65° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bringing the UA together

    If UA upper-classmen are aware of Wildcat Welcome at all, they probably think first of the abundance of free food available on the Mall during the first week of classes.

    For new freshmen, however, the program is designed to provide much more – from dorm move-in assistance on that bewildering first day on campus, to help finding places that in mere weeks will seem like their second home, to hosting that final farewell to the parents they have spent the first 18 years of life with, a goodbye sure to be tearful for parents.

    “”It’s so different from 2000, when his sister was a freshman,”” said Mary O’Neill, whose son, Sean O’Neill-Ryan, a psychology freshman, begins classes today.

    “”It wasn’t nearly as smooth. (This year), everyone has been so welcoming, hospitable, kind, and funny,”” she said. “”When we drove up to the dorm at 9 a.m. (Aug. 21), there were young men in purple shirts there to help us unload.””

    The moving help wasn’t without cost, however-O’Neill-Ryan had to endure a little teasing from a resident assistant in his new hall.

    “”I was wearing a pair of Cal shorts, because my sister goes to school there, and he told me I was going to have to get some new shorts,”” he said. “”I told him I was supporting my sister, and he said, ‘You have to support yourself now!'””

    Some of the move-in volunteers are helping to eliminate the perception of harassment, however. One of the core groups of volunteers who help move students in each fall are members of the University of Arizona Police Department, who this year provided a dozen officers and support staff to the effort.

    “”Our support really came out of the realization that we can’t do our jobs by ourselves,”” said UAPD spokesman Sgt. Juan Alvarez. “”We have to work with the community and develop relationships, so that students see us as someone who can help them.””

    Alvarez was toting boxes at Coronado Residence Hall on Aug. 20 and 21. He said that the dozen students he had helped personally all seemed shocked to see a police officer carrying their microwave.

    A few students moving into Coronado were perhaps even more surprised to discover that the man carrying their boxes was UA President Robert Shelton.

    Shelton spent over two hours Wednesday morning meeting and helping new students from Scottsdale and Tempe, and from as far away as Michigan, Long Island and Florida.

    “”I had a dolly,”” Shelton said. “”Families would drive up, and I’d just ask them if I could help them with their stuff. We’d talk about wProxy-Connection: keep-alive
    Cache-Control: max-age=0

    re they were from, why they came to the university, and what they are going to study. It reminds me of why we’re all here.””

    Although a few students from Tucson recognized Shelton immediately, some students actually got all their stuff moved in by the president without ever knowing his identity.

    “”Parents would ask me if I worked here, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m the president,'”” Shelton said.

    “”Several (parents) offered tips, but, of course, we didn’t accept them,”” Alvarez said. “”We just hope they get the idea that the whole university is one big community.””

    Bringing the campus community together to welcome new students and their families was exactly what organizers had in mind 10 years ago when the Wildcat Welcome program began. Director of campus recreation and Wildcat Welcome co-chair Juliette Moore had previously been on the staff of Northern Illinois University, where she had been a part of their university-sponsored welcome program. When she looked to become involved in the UA welcome program, she found that there was not one.

    “”Everyone was doing their own thing,”” Moore said, “”but there wasn’t a coordinated program.””

    Moore set out to change that, and in 1998, the first Wildcat Welcome team brought together volunteers from student affairs, athletics, the student union and residence life.

    “”The (Wildcat Welcome) name was already used by the union for their ice cream social, but we expanded it to include everyone’s activities,”” Moore said.

    Even today, Wildcat Welcome consists mostly of activities and events organized and funded by different departments and groups around campus, while the program coordinates the overall schedule and promotes the events to students and their families. Moore offered Campus Health’s distribution of water last week as an example.

    “”Campus Health roams around looking for anyone who looks hot out there who might want water,”” Moore said. “”It’s something they would do anyway, but now it’s brought under (the Wildcat Welcome) umbrella.””

    Another service central to the Wildcat Welcome is the “”Ask Me”” tent on the Mall in front of the student union, which continues through tomorrow and is staffed by Kasey Urquidez, director of undergraduate recruitment in the Office of Admissions.

    “”Most people were there for the free water,”” Urquidez said. “”We got a lot of questions about how to get tickets to football games, family weekend and how to pay your bill.””

    Despite the routine nature of most of the problems, Urquidez recalls some more intense issues being dealt with in the tent.

    “”A couple of years ago, we got a student who was really upset about not being able to find child care while she was in class… she was in tears,”” Urquidez said. “”It took a lot of work to calm her down, and then we connected her with the resources she needed and everything worked out fine.””

    Almost all of the services offered as part of the Wildcat Welcome are free to students and their families, with the exception of the Aug. 22 Wildcat Welcome barbeque and yesterday’s first annual Wildcat Bon Voyage brunch.

    The brunch, new this year, was added because organizers wanted an event that would give parents a place to say goodbye while letting them know their kids were in good hands, according to Kathy Adams Riester, assistant dean of students and, with Moore and Christina Lieberman, associate director of ASUA, and co-chair of Wildcat Welcome.

    “”Often we get the question (from parents) about when to leave, and this event is designed to provide a clear signal,”” Riester said.

    One new Wildcat who didn’t need a signal was James Wilson, a political science freshman from Clinton, Maryland, who was walking with his parents on the Mall last Thursday afternoon. He talked about how much he loved the campus.

    “”It’s beautiful,”” he said – but when asked if he was ready for mom and dad to go home, he replied, “”Yeah. I don’t even have to hesitate.””

    Sidebar:

    SUGHED: Program’s biggest question is future funding

    Despite all of the answers that the UA’s Wildcat Welcome program provides, one question still unanswered is the fate of its own funding in the future.

    Although most of the program is funded by various branches of the university that sponsor individual events and major event sponsors, a minimum of $20,000 is needed each year, primarily for promotional costs, said Juliette Moore, director of campus recreation and Wildcat Welcome co-chair.

    “”You have to have flyers and advertising,”” Moore said. “”This year’s budget is around $35,000, (of which) $15,000 to $16,000 is for publicity. You’ve got core costs that have to be taken care of.””

    That budget has shrunk significantly since the first year of Wildcat Welcome, when former UA President Peter Likins provided $42,000 in funding out of his office’s budget. That budget made it possible for all events, including the barbeque, to be free, and allowed organizers to bring in a big-name performer for the Catfest concert that wraps up the first week of classes, she said.

    Each year since, the amount of money has grown smaller, and this year, other than a small appropriation from the new student affairs fee to cover freshman convocation, the program is being financed entirely through money left over from previous years.

    Organizers have sought a line-item in the university budget for the last several years, but Wildcat Welcome has always lost out to higher-priority programs, Moore said.

    At least one method of increased funding is off the table, and that is charging students for events other than the barbeque and brunch, she said.

    “”(Charging money) goes against the concept of what we’re trying to do here, which is to welcome (students),”” Moore said. “”They shouldn’t have to pay for that.””

    “”Wildcat Welcome will continue,”” Shelton said. “”It shows (students and their families) that this is not just a huge place… it shows that it’s something that’s good for them.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search