A-Week Cookout

Incoming freshmen attend a New Student Welcome and a cookout Aug. 19 on the Union Mall.

Departments across campus came together to give incoming freshmen A-Week, a revised take on what was previously called Welcome to Welcome Week, aiming to increase retention rates and connect students to campus. 

A-Week introduced new traditions like A-Teams, the Beacon Ceremony and Hog Talks and incorporated old traditions like Taste of Fayetteville, where students sampled popular foods from local vendors. 

Through A-Week, administrators wanted to place an emphasis on student success, retention and transition, as well as a “cross-campus collaborative initiative,” said Larry Cloud, the associate director of New Student and Family Programs.

The 2017 first-year retention rate was 83.8% according to the 2018-2019 enrollment report.

Each day of A-Week focused on a specific theme related to student success including tradition, involvement and wellness, according to the division of student affairs new student and family programs page.

A-Week began Aug. 19 with a New Student Welcome and Cookout on the Union Mall.

Students were assigned to A-Teams for the week, with each team consisting of students who were all a part of the same required freshman seminar class. An upperclassman in the same college, referred to as an A-Week leader, led each A-Team.

Daily events included A-Team meetings, college open houses, wellness talks, religious organization fairs, game nights and more.

Students may recognize some of the events from past Welcome to Welcome Weeks, such as Taste of Fayetteville or Chocolate Wasted. 

Freshman Kiersten Saderup’s favorite event from A-Week was the Beacon Candlelight Ceremony on Tuesday night at the Chi Omega Greek Theater. Saderup is majoring in psychology and biology.

Students met at the Chi Omega Greek Theater and held up red glow sticks in response to questions like whether they were first-generation students or nervous about their first year, Saderup said.

For freshman Mark Everett, who is majoring in international business, getting to meet new people before classes began was one of his favorite parts of the week, he said.

One of the events Everett found most helpful was the Walton College of Business open house where one of the professors showed students where their classes would be by explaining maps of campus and talking about travel times, he said.

“It helps connect students with the university before classes start,” Everett said. “You feel more intertwined with everything going on.”

Everett also enjoyed the connections he made with upperclassmen through his A-Team leader, he said. 

Serving as one of the 109 A-Team leaders was an opportunity for Sophomore Annelise Koster, who is majoring in finance, to share her experiences and advice with freshmen.

Being able to help the freshman with any questions they had and see them get to know each other is something Koster enjoyed and wished she had as a freshman, she said.

Partners from across campus including the athletic department, housing, Chartwells and more helped make A-Week possible, Cloud said.

A-Week ended with the Freshman Pep Rally, a tradition that aims to bring freshmen together and show them some of the basics of being a Razorback, such as the fight song and game day chants.

Freshman Dani Cagna, who is majoring in engineering, attended the Freshman Pep Rally with her residence hall.

“It was cool learning the chants – I’m from Memphis so I’ve never been to an Arkansas game, Cagna said. “I went to the game on Saturday and recognized some of the chants.”

The pep rally also served as a chance for Cagna who went through panhellenic recruitment to connect with other students and the campus, she said.

“Hopefully, it will become a great tradition at the University of Arkansas,” Cloud said about A-Week.

Abbi Ross is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since March 2019.

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