With a Nod to the Past, New Student Orientation Leads Way to New Academic Year

New students will pay homage to the campus’ sesquicentennial next week when they revive a mainstay tradition of yesteryear: the rope pull.

Teams from the Class of 2017, who were introduced to campus history and traditions during NSO’s summer sessions, will compete in the tug of war. Though the rope pull will stay far from the shores of the Campus Pond, where classes once competed for bragging rights, the Old Chapel and a series of special panels will provide an equally historic backdrop for this special event, according to NSO director Jeanne Horrigan.

The rope pull will cap UFest, an afternoon of fun activities on Sunday, Sept. 1 to celebrate the arrival of the incoming class to campus. Activities at UFest, to be held on the Goodell lawn and adjacent areas, will include performances by student groups as well as talented first-years, mini-golf, a distracted driving demonstration by the UMass Police Department using lawn tractors and special goggles, food tents and a campus sustainability bike tour.

Several community service activities are also planned, all with a sesquicentennial theme, says Horrigan. The efforts include assembling 150 care packages for military personnel, making 150 blankets for the Project Linus children’s charity, contributing 150 minutes of work at the Permaculture Garden or getting 150 students to sign up as potential bone marrow donors.

From their arrival on Friday, Aug. 30, new students will be busy with a variety of fall orientation activities and programs, all planned to help smooth their transition into the campus community.

After moving into their residence halls, the students will meet with resident assistants and peer mentors before heading to residential area carnivals in the dining halls from 8 p.m. to midnight.

On Saturday morning, student staff will direct the incoming class members to school and college meetings, where the students will receive special T-shirts. At 11:30 a.m., the entire class will assemble in the Mullins Center for the New Students Convocation.

At the event, students will hear an address from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. Colin Beavan, author of this year’s common read, “No Impact Man,” will be the keynote speaker.

Also on the program are Provost James V. Staros, Student Government Association president Zachary Broughton and Alumni Association president Andrew MacDougall. Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life and dean of students Enku Gelaye will discuss community values and expectations.

Students also will be taught the university cheer, fight song and alma mater before heading outside to form a giant 2017 for a class photo.

“We’d like to invite faculty and staff to join us at the convocation to see the Class of 2017 as they begin their academic careers,” said Horrigan. Faculty members are encouraged to sit with their school or college, while other guests should sit in section U.

After convocation and lunch with faculty members at the dining commons, students can choose a number of afternoon and evening activities including a session for veterans, free ice skating at the Mullins practice rink, a welcome back dance, laser tag and a video game night.

From 3-5 p.m., Adventure into Amherst will introduce students to their downtown neighbors. A number of local business owners are offering special deals to students, who can also enjoy music and food while exploring the community. Students will be led on a route away from residential neighborhoods, mirroring last year’s Walk this Way campaign.

While many of the weekend activities are pegged primarily to first-year students, Horrigan said some of the programs are aimed at transfer students. On Sunday, there will be a welcome dinner in the Campus Center Auditorium, and on Monday, experienced transfer students will share their experiences during a panel presentation. Another transfer session is geared specifically to students coming from community colleges.

The Labor Day weekend festivities conclude with the annual welcome barbecue on Haigis Mall from 4-7 p.m., when Dining Services will shoot for its fourth world record by concocting a 15,000-pound fruit salad.

Labor Day also marks the start of First Week, a series of events and programs to celebrate the opening of the school year. This year’s highlights include:

  • Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community open house, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1:3-4:30 p.m.
  • Football pep rally for Sept. 7 game versus Maine, Thursday, Sept 5, noon, Student Union north lawn.
  • First Week concert featuring Easton Corbin with guest Casey Weston, Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m.

Fall NSO schedule

First Week schedule