By Travis Gulbrandson
Classes are starting at the University of South Dakota on Aug. 26, and the school is doing its part to ensure students will know exactly what is available to them.
Friday, Aug. 23, marks the official start of USD Welcome Week 2013, which offers a variety of activities designed to inform new and returning students of as many educational and extra-curricular activities as possible.
“Welcome week is our opportunity to welcome the students to campus, and then allow them to kind of experience a little bit of everything they’ll have the opportunity to partake in while they’re (here),” said Lindsay Sparks, director of transitions and student programming at USD.
Move-in and check-in begins at 7 a.m. in the DakotaDome Friday, and will continue through 3 p.m.
Throughout the rest of the day and week, students will attend a variety of orientations, receptions and social activities.
“We have some athletic events, and there are some speakers, different entertainment and our traditions that we have on campus,” Sparks said. “We try to make sure that all those things happen within the first week so the students get an idea of … what the year is going to look like.”
One of the more popular events is the Student Organization Fair, which takes place this year from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the old ice-skating rink across from the North Complex.
During the fair, students have a chance to visit with representatives from the more 120 student organizations at USD.
Athletic events are another well-attended feature of the welcome week, Sparks said.
“In the past couple of years, the women’s soccer team has had a home game during the first weekend, and we do a tailgate there,” she said. “This year, we have a football game during week, which will be awesome for our students to … experience that excitement.”
The USD Welcome Week is still a relatively new event, Sparks said.
“We really started doing it this way just a couple of years ago,” she said. “We do it every fall, and we do what we call Spring Welcome Back Week during the spring semester.
“This is what a lot of colleges across the nation do – an entire week of welcome. When I started here in 2010 it was just a couple of days, and between myself and a few other people in the Student Services area, we really tried to beef it up for the fall of 2011. That’s kind of how it’s been ever since,” she said.
Sparks said students have told her they enjoy the event because it allows them to experience so much in such a compressed amount of time.
“It’s an opportunity to be busy,” she said. “They don’t necessarily know what they can be busy with, so we try to give them a pretty packed schedule of events so that they know where they can go. They have programming going on, and it’s an opportunity to get to know people.
“For the most part, we hear that they really liked it,” she said.
Since its inauguration several years ago, Welcome Week hasn’t seen too many changes.
“We look at what’s popular, what’s well-attended, what makes sense on the schedule, so we add new things depending on what’s going on on campus,” Sparks said. “This year it changed a little bit because we’re starting classes at 8 a.m. rather than 4 p.m. on Monday. So we really had to get creative, because we kind of lost a day of programming.”
It takes a lot of coordination to get that programming scheduled, she said.
“We start planning kind of as soon as it ends,” Sparks said. “We start reserving the space for the following year, and then we spend all spring semester and summer planning, coordinating and booking acts.”
For more information about USD Welcome Week 2013 and a full schedule of events, visit http://www.usd.edu/campus-life/student-services/orientation/index.cfm.