It’s unusual times during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Arizona State University has made an extraordinary shift to welcome another class of Sun Devils for fall semester.
Thousands of first-year students will be arriving on campus in the coming weeks to begin their studies, and ASU will provide a full slate of activities for Welcome Week and beyond.
Some of the most iconic events will be held virtually, such as Sun Devil Welcome. This pep rally gathering is typically held in Desert Financial Arena, which is packed with more than 13,000 screaming students — a scenario that wouldn’t be safe in 2020. So this year, Sun Devil Welcome will be held virtually at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18.
But students also will be able to attend some in-person activities in small-group settings, with face coverings and physical distancing. These will include small-group residence hall floor meetings, plus walk-throughs of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and “find-my-classes” tours of each campus, according to Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services at ASU.
The in-person activities will be organized by floors in an effort to encourage students to connect in-person in “bubbles” with their nearest peers, Vogel said.
“Students may choose to extend their social bubble beyond their roommates and suitemates to include others living on their floor or within their residence hall. But guests from other residence halls will not be allowed, as we’re asking all students to commit to limiting their in-person social interactions,” she said. “If you live in Hassayampa, you’re not allowed to visit Manzanita.”
Students also will participate in some small-group, “get-to-know-you” activities with their floormates, Vogel said.
“We’ll keep it safely distanced and informative, but we won’t leave out good old-fashioned fun,” she said.
Additionally, Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness is facilitating 170 intimate programs with students, focused on self-care and how to live well during fall semester. At the Tempe campus, students will learn skills in how to maintain “mindful moments” as well as how to “fill up (their) cup” during stressful times.
“We are hopeful that these skills will equip students with the skills they need to navigate the upcoming semester, and also provide them with skills in resiliency/strength,” said Julie Kipper, executive director of Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness at ASU.
Vogel said that ASU’s staff and students worked hard to build a start-of-the-year experience that would be meaningful for new and returning Sun Devils. That meant deciding whether some activities could still be held in person and which would be held virtually — and how to make those “remote” events creative and fun.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into these sessions to figure out the meaning behind every activity, what we hope to accomplish and how it can be accessed,” she said.
So the Engage involvement fairs that introduce students to organizations on campus will be virtual this year, using a new software platform that lets them immediately interact with the members and advisers, Vogel said.
Other signature events including CultureFest and Sparky’s Day of Service also will be virtual.
“Changemaker wanted to make a strong statement with the residential colleges as partners to make sure we didn’t lose our service commitment,” Vogel said.
“They were able to figure out how they could do meaningful and impactful service online. Some examples include education around literacy and how COVID has exacerbated the conditions contributing to homelessness.”
The virtual Jason Derulo concert in June was such a success that Welcome Week organizers decided to hold the two-hour Infernofest performance remotely as well, she said. That will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21.
“I think it will play out exceedingly well. We’ll see something that continues our tradition but within an engaging virtual space,” Vogel said.
Explore the full list of ASU welcome events.
Top photo by Arizona State University