Connecting with Classmates Outside the Box

By Grace Collins ’23, October 16, 2020
First-year students connected through a month of virtual events during the college’s virtual Fall Welcome.

Feeling connected to a new campus and classmates can be challenging for incoming college students, even in the best of circumstances. But members of the Ithaca College Class of 2024 also had to deal with the additional hurdle of a virtual start to their college careers.

To aid in that process, the college’s Office of New Student and Transition Programs and Office of Residential Life — along with support from offices across the college — worked together to create a Fall Welcome Event series, which took place throughout the month of September. The goal was to virtually recreate the excitement and activity of First Bomber Weekend  — the traditional event that serves to introduce students to the campus community.

“We focused more on getting people out and about, on social media, or in Zoom meetings. We wanted this to feel as face-to-face as possible.”

Kevin Perry, associate director of New Student and Transition Programs

One of the biggest goals, said Kevin Perry, associate director of New Student and Transition Programs, was to move beyond standard webinars and the virtual activities offered during orientation.

“We focused more on getting people out and about, on social media, or in Zoom meetings,” said Perry, who co-chaired the planning committee with Samantha Stafford, assistant director of residential life. “We wanted this to feel as face-to-face as possible.”

Skye Krehbiel looking at mountains

One of the items on the list for the Outdoor Scavenger Hunt was to take a picture of somewhere with mountains, as Skye Krehbiel '24 did. (Photo submitted)

Aiding in that task were Fall Welcome Boxes — boxes full of IC-themed goodies that were sent to the homes of every first-year student — that included water bottles and other swag.

One such event was the Explore the Outdoors Scavenger Hunt, a weekend-long adventure that sent students exploring their hometowns and taking pictures of various places, such as somewhere with mountains. Another challenge was to take a picture of something with the word Ithaca on it — such as some of the items included in the box. Students could then share the pictures to Instagram under the hashtag #ICFallWelcome2020.

“It was interesting to see photos from everyone in the IC community and where they come from,” said Bethany Zuchowski ’24, who is from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

“[The scavenger hunt] got me out of my house and into nature, which is something I haven't done in a bit,” Mikayla Tolliver ‘24, added. “I got excited each time I found an item on the list.”

Another highlight of the Fall Welcome was the Paint and Sip event. Students were provided painting materials and given the choice of popping into themed Zoom rooms, such as nature, music, abstract art, or pop art.

Mikayla Tolliver with the supplies from her Fall Welcome Box

The Fall Welcome Boxes delivered to students included not only supplies for the various activities, but IC swag, like a water bottle. (Photo submitted by Mikayla Tolliver ‘24)

“Paint and Sip was the most interesting way to engage with the IC community,” said Deena Houissa '24.

Even those who didn’t choose to pick up a brush still found a way to connect around common interests. “It was nice getting to talk to a few people in the room about the music we liked,” said Helena McMahon ’24.

Students also got a chance to see all the engagement opportunities the college has to offer at the Virtual Student Organization Fair. Led by Mary Holland-Bavis, associate director of the Office of Student Engagement, individual Zoom meetings were held for 130 different clubs, and more than 600 students visited.

“If you're engaged and you're excited and you're providing a space for students to come together, that's what everyone's craving and wanting,” said Holland-Bavis.

Maddie Kramer ‘24 has a passion for dance and said that organization members were more than willing to help students like her find their niche.

That comfort even extended overseas. Lin Chen ‘24, currently lives in Bucharest, Romania, and said that while he was initially nervous to attend the org fair, the e-board members of the clubs he expressed interest in were all incredibly welcoming.

“My socially awkward trait vanished during the meetings, so I thought it was a very cool experience,” he said.

Reflecting on the month of events, Perry was pleased with the experience the committee was able to give this incoming class. “We have put together some amazing programs while trying to be as creative as possible,” he said. “I am really proud of the group for that.”