It’s a time of year that’s often full of mixed feelings. This year, the excitement and awkwardness of transitioning to university life are joined by a sense of relief and apprehension as the university community gets together again on campus after more than a year apart.
Dalhousie Student Affairs has a plan to help with that. They’ve pulled together a wide range of options that allow students to get the information they need, engage based on their comfort level and prepare for an incredible year at Dalhousie.
This year, welcome programming includes self-directed and group activities with online and on-campus options for both new-to-Dal students and new-to-campus students — all within the safe gathering limits directed by the province.
New to Dal
Many of Dalhousie's welcome sessions, activities and supports have been grouped within New to Dal, which is home to a full slate of programming that kicked off at the start of this week (August 30) and continues until September 18. Learn more about New to Dal.
“New to Dal brings all our welcome programming and activities together into one flow of information for new students,” explains Rigel Biscione Cruz, student engagement coordinator with Student Affairs. “In past years, students told us how confusing it was to have so many different options competing for their attention at the same time, so we’ve worked together to streamline the university programming under the New to Dal umbrella.”
In addition to a variety of important and informative sessions for students, New to Dal includes special welcomes from the International Centre, the Black Student Advising Centre, the Indigenous Student Centre, the Bissett Student Success Centre and Able@Dal. And of course, students on the Agricultural Campus have their own a mix of online and in-person events.
Because Nova Scotia will still have some COVID restrictions in place when students start arriving on campus, organizers have been working within current regulations to ensure a safe experience for everyone. In some cases that means limiting attendance, sometimes it means expanding programming to break out into smaller groups.
“We were just focused on participation, but we’ve switched to encouraging advance registration,” says Rigel. “That way, because the current outdoor gathering limit is 250 with distancing, if we have 500 people registered, we can plan to host another version of the same event.”
The Dalhousie Student Union O-Week is gearing up to break barriers with a one-of-a-kind experience. This ticketed event welcomes first-year students from September 4-7 with music, movies, games and good times. Designed to ensure a safe and welcoming space, event capacity has been limited and tickets sold out quickly. Learn more about DSU O-Week.
Offering a robust mix of online activities is another way organizers are working to keep group sizes within the limits. It’s also a more inclusive and flexible approach that ensures all students can get involved in some way. All the information that’s covered in the in-person programming will also be online, including the popular University 101 session.
“It’s important to provide options — if people aren’t comfortable with gathering in person, they can still have access online. No student should feel like they have to join in or they will miss out on valuable information,” explains Rigel. “That’s especially important for students who are travelling or need to quarantine when they enter Nova Scotia. We’re really trying to make sure that people have the opportunity to participate at different points, as they’re able to.”
Stretching it out
The Agricultural Campus is hoping to ensure students can look forward to a few traditional activities (like the Bubble Barn!) by extending programming beyond the expected shift into phase five, which eases restrictions.
“Holding back a few activities will make things easier to manage and will also allow students some time to adjust and get more comfortable on campus,” says Gillian Hatch, student success advisor on the Agricultural Campus. “We’ll also break students into groups based on T-shirt colour, like we do every year, but this year, we'll just have a few more colours to keep the groups smaller and stay within the safety guidelines.”
Open to all new and returning students, DSU’s Welcome Week features free events from September 8-11 that are sure to bring some fun back to campus. Grab a donut. Join in trivia or karaoke. And cap it all off with Dalfest. Learn more about Welcome Week.
Whether entirely new to Dalhousie, new to campus or returning after more than a year away, students are encouraged to take part in welcome programming to get to know Dalhousie and each other, and to settle in to being together again.
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