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Weeks of Welcome maintain presence across all campuses

2020-08-14-Weeks-of-Welcome-1
At the Weeks of Welcome tents, students can pick up masks to wear on campus. Masks are required in all UNG buildings and facilities. Students were able to pick up masks before the start of school during drive-up events.

For two weeks, the University of North Georgia (UNG) welcomes students to all five campuses with various activities as part of Weeks of Welcome, which has a different look this semester.

All of the traditional events, such as Student Convocation on Aug. 17 and Nighthawks Fest from Aug. 24-28, are mostly virtual because of limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Stacie Rowley, associate dean of students at UNG.

Students watched the Convocation via YouTube Live and Zoom. Speakers included Dr. Bonita Jacobs, president of UNG; Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs; Dr. James Conneely, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management; and students. For students unable to watch live, a recording will be posted online 48 hours after the event.

The Weeks of Welcome tents will maintain their in-person status, running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 19 and 20 on all five campuses and following social distancing guidelines.

Rowley said preserving all of the events, either face to face or online, is extremely important this year.

"We gear Weeks of Welcome for our new students as a way to introduce them to our UNG community," she said. "In some capacity, everything is new this semester. No one has done this before. Even our virtual offerings look different this fall as compared to the spring."

Rowley hopes students connect with the UNG community by attending events or joining an organization.

"The skills that students develop through organizations or connections they make outside of the classroom give them a sense of belonging," she said. "They know they are not alone."

Students will have the opportunity to find a place to belong during the virtual Nighthawks Fest, which is an organization fair. This year, it will be conducted from Aug. 24-28 via UNG Connect.

"We will have key times when student organizations and leaders will be live online to interact with interested parties," Rowley said.

She said Nighthawks Fest was originally scheduled to be online and in person this fall to connect more students with groups. Rowley explained many students on the Gainesville, Oconee and Cumming campuses schedule their classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Thursday. Since students' class schedules did not fall at the same time, nearly half of the student population in the past would not attend Nighthawks Fest.

"With the fest being only virtual this year, all students can attend," she said. "We also offered it online because some students are taking all of their classes online this fall. Through the virtual fair, they will have the same opportunity to join a club as those students taking in-person classes."

Greek-A-Palooza will also go virtual Aug. 27 on UNG Connect, said Aubrey Frazier, director of fraternity and sorority life at UNG. In-person engagement opportunities will be available during Weeks of Welcome as a few fraternities and sororities will host in-person tabling events, too.

"All of these activities and events will show our students that they can still join groups and meet new people and have fun, even if it is not on campus," Rowley said. "And when students have a connection, they are more likely to make it to next semester and graduate."

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