By Esther Morales
Much like the switch to fully remote learning, the College’s annual Welcome Week for the incoming Class of 2024 and transfer students took the annual tradition online.
This year’s virtual Welcome Week, which began Aug. 21, included live activities over Zoom with escape rooms, digital caricatures and a mind-reading show.
Although students normally have the chance to mingle with one another face-to-face, students were still able to talk to each other through the Zoom chat feature and in breakout rooms.
The week officially kicked off with the PlayFair, one of the most memorable College events alumni look back on, and was followed by four days of virtual games, shows and webinars.
PlayFair, where you’d usually catch new students scrambling around the football field participating in large-scale icebreakers and team-building games, brought the same high-energy online.
“I was able to make a bunch of friends throughout all the breakout rooms in the sessions and especially in the PlayFair session,” said freshman interactive multimedia major Robert Andersen.
On Saturday, Aug. 22, students got the chance to break a sweat with a “PiYo” fusion class, bust a move in a bingo dance party and attend some mandatory informational webinars.
The recurring favorite session among students this year was “Building a More Inclusive TCNJ,” led by Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, the president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group. For freshman music education major Gianna Marrano, this was one of the highlights of the week.
“He was so peaceful and gave us so much information in a nice, calm way,” she said. “At the end, he showed his husky puppy. Any Zoom that shows a puppy is an A-plus in my book.”
With unique and personal schedules, students appreciated the various times available to attend mandatory webinars and were surprised by the lack of technical difficulties throughout the week.
Alycia Gilb, an undeclared freshman in the School of Arts and Communication, attended the Sunday “Text Breakers” game that hosted trivia, guess-the-picture and fill-in-the-blank games that students could participate in by texting in answers.
“It was really entertaining (because) the host was very funny interacting with everyone,” Gilb said.
On the other hand, the transition to a virtual format gave some freshmen mixed feelings.
“I just wish that we knew the exact times a little earlier on than we did so I could have been able to attend the bingos and caricatures,” said Delia Mischel, a freshman fine arts major. “I feel like I would have connected with more incoming freshmen that way.”
Because the College had never hosted a virtual Welcome Week before, it didn’t come without hiccups. Dez Martinez, a freshman special education and sociology dual major, said that many of her sessions had different students sending lewd or inappropriate comments into the virtual chat.
“It got so bad that the speaker had to intervene and stop the session for a moment to address the comments,” Martinez said in reaction to a “Can I Kiss You,” a session led by Mike Domitrz educating students on sexual assault, healthy relationships and consent.
Welcome Week began drawing to a close with the virtual convocation ceremony hosted on Zoom and led by College President Kathryn Foster. The ceremony featured words of encouragement from both the administration and students.
“Today’s convocation officially opens the 165th academic year of The College of New Jersey, and it allows us to bring our newest members into the intellectual environment of the College,” Foster said.
The College’s incoming students were presented by the director of admissions, Grecia Montero, followed by Matthew Bender, an associate professor of history and the president of the faculty senate.
He shared his life-changing experience studying in Kenya that sparked a new passion for African history and culture. As new students prepared to begin their journey at the College, Bender offered up a bit of guidance.
“College is a place where new opportunities present themselves all the time,” Bender said. “If you are flexible enough to deviate from the plan at times, you’ll open the door to a richer life experience.”
Executive President of the College’s Student Government, Sushir Govindarajan, reflected on his evolving journey at the College and shared one of the most important lessons he’s learned: it’s OK to not have all the answers.
“We put too much emphasis on knowing what we want; your end goals. But how can you know what you want when you haven’t even started the process?” Govindarajan said.
As tradition, President of the College Alumni Association Peter Simmons presented the Class of 2024 with a banner that will be hung on display in the Brower Student Center.
To help close up the ceremony, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Jeffrey Osborn, welcomed incoming students and introduced a presentation of the College’s Alma Mater by alumni Monica Alvarado (‘20), Maura McFadden (‘20) and Angelina Francese (‘20).
Accompanied by the College’s wind ensemble and concert band, Osborn offered words of advice in his closing remarks to the incoming students.
“I charge each of you to exercise the academic rights and privileges that you have as a student at TCNJ in balance with the responsibilities of good citizenship and community purpose — which are needed now more than ever.”