Student leaders offer top picks, expert advice as new semester looms

by | Aug 18, 2017

Members of the Weeks of Welcome crew share their favorite campus traditions and some words of wisdom.
Weeks of Welcome Fall 2017

New and returning Tritons will find more than 100 campus events listed in this fall’s Weeks of Welcome booklet. It’s available online and in hard copy at the Office of Student Involvement in the Millennium Student Center. (Images courtesy of Mike Diliberto)

A sense of urgency filled the Millennium Student Center on Wednesday evening as a group of about 20 University of Missouri­–St. Louis students – this year’s enthusiastic Weeks of Welcome, or WOW, crew – gathered inside the Office of New Student Programs.

As they and NSP staff prepared to kick off the university’s 2017-18 school year with a burst of Triton pride and energy, several of the student leaders connected with UMSL Daily to share a few words of advice for those new to campus and recommend their favorite campus traditions.


Madisyn Weiss

In some cases they touched on similar themes, with one particular imperative cropping up again and again: Get involved.

“Put yourself out there and start the semester on the best foot,” said Madisyn Weiss, a junior who is double majoring in political science and criminology and criminal justice. “And pick up a copy of the WOW booklet in the Office of Student Involvement. There’s over 100 events in that booklet.”

That’s no exaggeration. Including opportunities for UMSL fun and enrichment ranging from celebrations of Monday’s solar eclipse to Family Weekend in October and beyond, the handy guide is packed with activities to check out.


Chris Mathes

And it all starts with Triton Take-Off Weekend Aug. 18 to 20. For both new and returning students, it’s three days not to be missed.

Along with Weiss, who urged both commuters and those living on campus to make the entire weekend a priority, upperclassman Chris Mathes couldn’t say enough good things about those earliest days of the college experience.

But if one has to pick and choose, he added, make sure not to miss the Welcome Picnic that begins at 5 p.m. Aug. 20 outside the MSC on North Campus.

“It’s probably the best-attended event of the weekend, and there are just a lot of people to meet,” he said.


Sammi Risius

He also suggested paying a visit to one of the Help-a-Triton tables scattered across campus during the first two days of class, Aug. 21 and 22.

“It’s actually really helpful to talk to the people at the tables and figure out where you’re going,” said Mathes, who is majoring in math and secondary education.

His other word of advice? “Look for tutoring before you need it.”

Public relations major Sammi Risius didn’t hesitate even for a second when asked which events are her favorites.


Joey Dordoni

“The Greek Freeze,” she said. “It’s really fun because you get to meet men and women in fraternity and sorority life, and you also get ice cream.”

Her second pick was the Serendipity Sendoff, an annual tradition in which members of the UMSL community gather at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 20 to officially welcome the newest Tritons to campus.

For her fellow WOW crew member Joey Dordoni, it’s the STL Scavenger Hunt that’s not to be missed. Beginning at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at the UMSL South MetroLink stop, the activity sends groups off to locations across St. Louis in pursuit of prizes and good fun.


Sydni Jackson

The sophomore international relations major suggested stopping by the Aug. 23 Fall Involvement Expo in the Quad as well. That lunch-hour event is where he first connected with many of the student organizations he eventually joined – and it’s full of helpful information of all sorts.

Dordoni also plugged Friday Night Flicks, a weekly event sponsored by UMSL’s student-led University Program Board. Sydni Jackson, executive chair of UPB, said there are multiple things to love about the activity, which takes place each Friday in the Student Government Association Chamber.

“It’s a free movie, and usually it’s one that’s just been in theaters,” she explained. “It’s fun and it’s free food, too.”


Tayler Leverenz

Along with continuing to pursue her majors in civil engineering and Spanish, Jackson added that she’ll definitely be making time for another UPB-sponsored event, the Hottest Event of the Year, at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 21. Students can take in the solar eclipse on the MSC patio, where glasses and themed snacks will be provided.

And like several of her peers, she emphasized the immense value of getting involved on campus.

“There are over 100 student organizations on campus, and so there’s really something for everyone,” Jackson said.

Tayler Leverenz, who is studying marketing and finance, echoed others’ suggestions of being sure to stop by the Fall Involvement Expo during the first week of class.


Brandon Macias

“It’s proven that if you get involved on campus you are more likely to graduate,” she said, adding that she would also encourage those new to campus to never hesitate to reach out to faculty members for assistance as needed.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors,” Leverenz said. “They have office hours for a reason.”

Third-year graphic design major Brandon Macias’ advice was short and sweet: Don’t miss the Ice Cream Social organized by UMSL’s Associated Black Collegians at 5 p.m. Aug. 23, he said.

Thomas Poon, a junior mechanical engineering major who is also minoring in computer science and math, had some trouble narrowing down his top picks. Eventually he settled on Paint-a-Palooza, set for 6 p.m. Aug. 24 on the Provincial House lawn.


Thomas Poon

“That is one of my favorites for sure,” Poon said. “It’s just a nice, lighthearted event, and it’s a great way to meet your fellow students because of that lightheartedness.”

He also touted the Big Event, an annual day of volunteerism in the community. This year’s effort is set for Sept. 23, and past iterations have left Poon with a “really good feeling of all of us going and working toward a common goal.”

As for advice, Poon suggested finding at least one student organization or campus job to dive into early on. He said it helps build a sense of community as well as individual happiness and satisfaction.


Ash Hocking

“Don’t just use college to get an academic education – also use it for personal development and networking,” he said.

Ash Hocking, a junior history education major, added one more top event pick to the list: UMSL Night at the Ballpark. The St. Louis Cardinals will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at 7:15 p.m. Sept. 8, and Hocking definitely plans to attend again. He remembers the evening as a highlight of his own first semester at UMSL.

“By that point I had met some great friends, and it was great to get together and go,” Hocking recalled. “We had like 50 people in our section that were all UMSL, and it was awesome.”

His advice for new students also related to the Gateway City.

“If you’re not from St. Louis, take Metro and go experience things in St. Louis,” Hocking said. “And if you are from St. Louis, try and experience those things again with a different perspective. And get involved.”

For the full Weeks of Welcome rundown, stop by the Office of Student Involvement for a printed booklet or click here to view it online.

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill