Following an unconventional 2020 Welcome Week, this year’s incoming students were greeted with a full line-up of events.
By: Hannah Hunhoff
Vehicles made their way up Bethel Drive to freshman halls Aug. 26 and 27, met with the smiling faces and loud cheers from over 80 Welcome Week staff members. The newly arrived students were ushered into their dorms while Welcome Week staff, Bethel Student Government members, the United Worship team, Shift leaders and football players graciously carried box upon box of possessions up numerous flights of stairs.
Welcome Week serves as new students’ first taste of Bethel. While COVID-19 halted the previous class’ involvement in several events, all were reinstated into the event line-up that spanned Aug. 26 to 29.
“It’s really exciting that due to the availability of the vaccine, our experience with COVID and access to resources like testing allow us to be together in community again,” said Vice President of Student Life and former Welcome Week Coordinator Miranda Powers. “I’m excited for our community to participate in some of the traditions that we weren’t able to participate in the same way last year.”
This year, the Welcome Week theme was “boundless” and alluded to Psalm 147:5, which reads, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
Reflecting on last year, Welcome Week Coordinator Caitlin Beyer realized students were unable to get the full Welcome Week experience. Her aim this year was to bring a joyful and energetic experience to all students and their families.
“We are pushing at the idea that there’s a reason each student is at Bethel and there is a reason that they’re loved by God,” Committee Head of Service Marah Smith said. “We are going to have students coming from many different places, and it’s so important that each student knows how boundless God’s love is for them.”
The move-in process kicks off the Welcome Week experience. Unlike last year’s four-day move-in process, this year’s event took place in a two-day period Aug. 25 and 26. New student employees, freshmen in the BUILD program and transfer students were the first to be moved in Aug. 25. Each student group experienced the classic Welcome Week move-in experience as their possessions were quickly moved from car to dorm room.
“I was kind of overwhelmed at first,” freshman Getsch resident Garret Schindler said. “When all of my stuff was in my room before I even stepped in the door, I thought that was pretty crazy.”
The remaining incoming freshmen and their families arrived on campus on Aug. 26. Welcome Week staff made an effort to intentionally call each student by name, also walking them into their residence halls and introducing them to hall staff.
“Often we use the word ‘community’ at Bethel, but I think of it as a community that’s transformative and works hard to be inclusive,” Powers said. “I see examples of that all over our campus and in our student experience.”
The Welcome Week team aimed to not only cater the community-building experience to the traditional student group, but also to students enrolled in the PSEO and BUILD programs.
“I’m excited about the student experience at Bethel,” Edgren resident and BUILD student Nick Christendom said. “I can’t wait to meet new friends and start my classes.”
Alongside the Welcome Week staff, President Ross Allen and his wife, Annie, made their way through a sea of vehicles to welcome families into the Bethel community.
“It’s amazing to see all the relationships the staff has formed come together through a bunch of screaming, chanting and being able to be totally comfortable with one another,” Team Committee member Ally Stackhouse said.
While the first day of move-in was filled with sunshine, the second day was hit with 55 mph winds and 1 ½ inches of rain. Move-in was halted for an hour as Welcome Week staff members found shelter in Nelson Hall. During this time, students had discussions with new families while some staff members took advantage of the break to nap.
“After the delay, we got hype again and moved fifty cars in under fifty minutes,” Community Committee team member Anna Pearson said.
Rain or shine, the Bethel tradition continues.
The move-in process built momentum for the rest of the week’s busy schedule.
Five primary events were reintroduced this year: a lakeside picnic, a commissioning service, the Show, the Bethel Student Government party and the Day of Service. Previous virtual events, such as a kickoff celebration and Koinonia, were moved to an in-person experience or merged with other events. In total, incoming students participated in nine social events led by the staff, including residence hall parties, Movie on the Lawn and the Cultural Connections Dessert.
Parents and other family members were also involved in the welcoming process, taking part in events such as the lakeside picnic. They were also actively involved in the reinstated commissioning service this year, which involved a designated time of prayer and worship. Last year, families didn’t receive the opportunity to participate in a service of this kind and briefly said goodbye to their students.
“It’s the last thing that parents do before they leave and it’s a really impactful way of launching into the Bethel community,” Powers said.
Compared to the primarily virtual parent experience last year, increased parent involvement was prioritized.
“We have felt very welcomed here and I feel very happy that my daughter will be at Bethel,” Annette Anderson, parent of a freshman student, said. “I feel thrilled to be here.”
Welcome Week’s production, the Show, is directed by the Community Committee and performed in Benson Great Hall for incoming students, family and guests to enjoy.
“The Show is a theatrical production created to introduce new students to some of Bethel’s culture and opportunities,” Community team member Micah Smith said.
This year’s Show, titled the “Bethelympics,” was an Olympic-themed performance filled with skits and dances. Featuring a combination of pre-filmed and live productions, it offered students a glimpse of the next few years of their lives.
Between Core Group tours and beginning classes the following week, the Show met new students exactly where they were at and gave them an amusing introduction to Bethel.
“I really liked the beginning. I thought it was really funny and I really enjoyed all the jokes in the show as well,” Nelson resident and PSEO student Brianna Good said. “The guys’ dance was my favorite.”
Amid the action of Welcome Week, every event exists to help students adjust to college life and promote community experiences.
“Being on this team is just another part of spreading the love of God to people, hoping they feel at home,” Smith said. “This really is bringing new friends into this community of believers who are processing life and faith.”
With students hailing from all over the country, Beyer hopes that each and every one will transition out of Welcome Week feeling “seen, heard, known and loved.”
“I really want every single student, no matter who they are or where they come from, to feel like they’re going to be okay here,” Beyer said. “I want them to know that there are people here who support them.”