Features News

Recapping PLNU’s Inaugural Welcome Week

Roller Coaster at SeaWorld. Photo courtesy of Zach Dinsmore.

Just a few weeks ago, Point Loma Nazarene University held its first ever “Welcome Week” for the incoming transfer and first-year students that moved on campus for the 2023-2024 school year. It was a week full of activities, including small groups, community building and a surprise trip to SeaWorld San Diego to end the week with a splash.

Although PLNU has never held a Welcome Week, the Monday of Aug. 21 was move-in day for incoming students. The university’s main entrance and on-campus roads were lined with second to fourth-year students shouting welcome cheers to every car that pulled onto campus, new students discovering their home for the next four years, and community being built all around. 

Due to move-in day being a nine-hour grind of setting up their rooms, new students were able to have a relaxing Tuesday before the events of Welcome Week kicked off.

Wednesday was the first day of Welcome Week events, starting with the first-year students meeting their Alpha Groups. The students were split into groups based on their residence halls to bring a sense of community to the dorms and to give them a sense of what Alpha Groups will be like throughout the year. 

First-year elementary education major Nick Beyer said he feels that Welcome Week benefited him and gave him the opportunity to make new connections.

“It [Welcome Week] for sure gave me a super positive impression of Point Loma just because of how welcoming and excited people were to see new faces on campus,” Beyer said. “Welcome Week helped me prepare by allowing me to meet new people and sort of get a little community together before I even started classes.”

Along with Alpha Groups on Wednesday, students had the opportunity to go on campus tours and participate in competitions among the Welcome Week small groups. In the evening, the new students lined Caf Lane at a long table, where student leaders served them dinner, showing them that PLNU is community driven.

Thursday was full of breakout sessions on various topics, such as “your academic home,” career services and records advising/planning. These sessions were put in place to show the new students all of the resources they have access to on campus. 

Selfie of Nease 1 N/S small group in line for coaster. Photo credit to Nathan Hendrickson.

The night was sealed with a showing of the movie “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” in Brown Chapel.

Friday included different breakout sessions for the incoming students, as well as PLNU’s annual Sand Ceremony. Each student poured a vial of sand into one collective tank, representing the community that they are a part of at PLNU. When students’ graduate, they receive a vial of sand from that exact tank. 

The day concluded by gathering all of the new students in Brown Chapel whilst 21 charter buses pulled onto Caf Lane to take the almost 1,100 students to SeaWorld San Diego. There, the new students saw killer whales, rode roller-coasters and celebrated the past week and the upcoming school year. 

Fourth-year mathematics and music double-major Peter Tolo was a student leader during Welcome Week. Tolo said that student leaders have the potential to play significant roles for the new students.

“I remember hearing that the first, like, six weeks of a student’s time in college is often the most make-or-break, and if student leaders can help new students feel more at home then we as a school are doing our job right,” Tolo said. “Obviously, though, it depends on how much a student leader wants to invest in their position, and how much they even have to give in the first place. It’s all relative I guess.”

Along with the events that took place over the week, new students had the opportunity to meet faculty and other staff on campus. Professor Jon Manning is the director of the LEAP (Learning Experiences for Academic Progress) program at PLNU; he believes Welcome Week’s best feature was being able to find mistakes before classes started.

“The biggest benefit that I saw, and this is just speaking as a faculty member, was the ability to catch scheduling issues and make fixes to them before the semester began,” Manning said. “In any previous year we would have been changing people’s schedules probably a week into the semester.”

Another thing that Manning noticed was the abundance of activities planned for the new students stretched over just a couple of days.

“I don’t think I talked to a single first-year that wasn’t exhausted by the experience, and this is technical stuff but, like, we over scheduled them, we had too many things, and probably needed to plan for more opportunities for rest,” Manning said

Although the week was extremely successful, it was jam-packed with activities, Manning hopes to see more of a balance between community events and time to relax before being fully engulfed in school.

“I don’t think it’s a simple matter of ‘oh let’s just have less stuff,’ it’s going to be ‘how do we offer meaningful stuff, strategically, in a way that keeps students engaged at Loma, but doesn’t tire them out,’” Manning said.