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Don Block, associate director of dining services for residence halls, and his staff members expect to serve 8,300 people in less than 30 minutes during First Nite, a picnic dinner at Memorial Stadium for incoming freshmen. First Nite introduces freshmen to coaches and members of the fall sports teams, the Marching Illini and traditions like the "I.L.L.-I.N.I." cheer.
Photo by Kwame Ross
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The Class of 2009, a record-setting class of 7,650 freshmen, will be welcomed to the UI’s Urbana campus with a variety of activities and programs known as Illinois Celebration 2005.
Orientation for incoming freshmen, which used to be one component of summer orientation and registration, was made a separate event this year called fall orientation, conducted Aug. 22 and Aug. 23, preceding the start of classes on Aug. 24.
“If someone attends summer registration on June 1 and 2 but doesn’t come back to campus until Aug. 24, remembering all that information is difficult,” said Rhonda Kirts, assistant dean of students in the Office of the Dean of Students. “Doing these things once they’re here seemed more appropriate.”
Although freshmen will receive much of the same information that was disseminated under the old format, the change will allow for some new events and expanded programs that will make up I-start Student Welcome Week.
New events include URules, an initiative involving the UI police, Champaign and Urbana firefighters and the Mass Transit District that will feature live performances and videotaped presentations on university rules and safety-related topics.
Students will be able to learn about the many cultures within the university community at a cultural diversity festival called I-Celebrate. The event will include student performing acts, a cultural bazaar and hands-on activities at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and Spurlock Museum.
Illini Union Community Connection, also new this year, aims to strengthen students’ links with the Champaign-Urbana community by having student volunteers perform two hours of service work related to one of five social issues: the environment, health needs, hunger and homelessness, neighborhood involvement or youth and education. Amy Sponsler, director of the Office of Volunteer Programs, said that 325 students who have signed up through the Web site and 13 local agencies, including Special Olympics and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, are participating in the three-day event, which is expected to become an annual program and will include additional events throughout the academic year.
“These students won’t even have gone to their classes yet and they’re going out into the community, so we’re really excited,” Sponsler said.
Illini Guides – a program now in its 58th year – will have larger roles this year. The 600 I-guides, identifiable by their dazzling orange T-shirts, will not only assist students with moving in. They’ll receive training in a specialty area – campus safety, diversity or academics – and assist staff members with orientation activities, including accompanying students during the service work and leading reflection sessions afterward.
This will mark the 10th year for New Student Convocation, a tradition started by former Chancellor Michael Aiken to help students feel more at home on campus. Convocation, which will be held at Assembly Hall on Aug. 22, will include a faculty procession, a greeting by Chancellor Richard Herman and speaker Rajmohan Gandhi, director of the Global Crossroads Living/Learning Community and visiting professor in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
Following Convocation, freshman will convene at Memorial Stadium for First Nite, where they will learn Illinois traditions and be introduced to the Marching Illini and the players and coaches on the university’s fall sports teams.
Don Block, associate director of dining services for residence halls, said his staff will have 25 6-foot grills and 25 double-sided buffet lines grilling and chilling at the stadium in order to feed about 8,300 participants in 30 minutes or less.
Approximately 96 percent of incoming freshmen last year attended both Convocation and First Nite, up from the usual turnout of about 84 percent – which meant about 800 more diners than were expected, but cooks at Gregory Food Service were able to whip up some chicken fingers and deliver them to the stadium to feed the extra students.
“We’re preparing for a similar turnout this year so that won’t happen again,” Block said.
Other activities during Welcome Week include Fresh Start, which will introduce students to the programs offered through the Division of Campus Recreation. Campus Information Technologies and Education Services, Campus Stores and Krannert Center are partnering with Campus Rec and providing activities and prizes. The Illini Union will offer a variety of entertainment and activities, including Quad Day, an annual event during which students can learn about nearly 500 of the registered organizations available and enjoy performances by many of them.
Each college and the Institute of Aviation also have scheduled events to welcome and orient their respective students.
Freshmen in living/learning communities will be moving into the residence halls on Aug. 18, followed by the remaining freshmen on Aug. 20 and returning students on Aug. 21.
After lugging their belongings into their rooms on Aug. 20, freshmen will be able to bid goodbye to their families with a picnic lunch on the west lawn of Memorial Stadium, sponsored this year by the Moms and Dads Association. Approximately 1,000 lunches have been ordered by freshmen and their families.