California Baptist University welcomed new and transfer students this year on Aug. 20-21. However, to adhere to guidelines regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the university was required to adapt in-person welcome activities.
To welcome new students, CBU hosts Welcome Weekend, an event that features speakers and activities designed to help students connect and interact with the campus and other students over the course of three or four days. Since the COVID-19 restrictions prohibit large gatherings, CBU could not hold the event as it did in past years.
“We had to see what was important for our students to know to be successful in academics,” said Daniel Garcia, assistant director of New Student Programs. “The motivation was to connect them to our campus, to our culture and to Christ.”
Instead of organizing large group events, CBU organized check-in days on Aug. 20-21 for new students so they could move into living areas and receive items such as their ID cards and parking permits. The school also distributed welcome boxes to new students which included a mask, a neck gaiter, a hand sanitizer, a water bottle and socks.
The university also created a website, calbaptist.edu/welcome, to provide students with informative videos from staff and students about life at CBU, the offices and resources located on campus, academics and the community around CBU.
“The goal of this was the safety of our students,” Garcia said. “We are all going through (the pandemic), but this is such a big transition that I wanted our students to feel heard, welcomed and known.”
Even though student leaders could not help new students move into their living areas or participate in normal Welcome Weekend activities, they prepared welcome boxes, directed new students to the correct locations, sanitized areas around campus and greeted students.
“Although a lot of ways that I would normally welcome new students are restricted due to COVID-19, they are not completely limited,” said Hannah Darke, junior Christian behavioral science major and resident adviser (RA). “I try to utilize technology by sending them texts, writing them notes and inviting them to meals. Doing my best to help them feel comfortable is what I believe to be one of the best things I can do.”
Recognizing that students could not participate in the usual Welcome Weekend activities, Garcia said he believes the videos and check-in days were successful in making new students feel welcomed and prepared to begin at CBU this semester.
“All I saw was positive energy from everyone at the school and it made me feel less nervous,” said Jennalee Taylor, freshman pre-nursing major. “My RA did an amazing job of meeting me and getting to know me. There were so many people I could have gone to for help if I had any questions, and that was really reassuring especially since this is a new environment. In my opinion, it was very effective and CBU did the best they could under the circumstances.”
Garcia said he believes the website helps students remember information and provides them with a resource to access information. He said CBU plans to continue to use some of the resources they created to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions in future years in addition to normal Welcome Weekend activities.