The beginning of college can be a daunting experience for many young students, but Northeastern State University's Department of Student Engagement is helping its freshmen get prepared for their first semester.
On Tuesday of NSU Welcome Week, the day's events kicked off with a pep rally and the freshmen coin walk, as students gathered at Beta Field to learn about NSU campus traditions, be greeted by faculty and staff, and receive their university coins. One side of the coin depicts the university seal and the other features the university's core values, representing what it means to be part of the NSU and Tahlequah community.
"They're meant to keep that coin as a reminder of their role in the community all throughout their time on campus," said Dr. Kelly Jo Larsen, director of Student Engagement. "Then during their senior year, before they graduate, they are asked to give that coin to someone who has had an impact on their time on campus. So they can give it to a faculty member, staff member, or any mentor, because we know that no college student goes through college alone."
Lectures and guest speakers are featured throughout Welcome Week, and students are also split up into small groups to learn need-to-know information before class begins. By the end of the week, they will have learned how to access their NSU email account and the Blackboard system.
"Those are things that it's important for students to know on day one, not on week three," said Larsen. "So a lot of Welcome Week is set up for how do we make sure that on the first day of class, you know exactly what you need to know to have the most positive, most impactful, best first day of class you can have. So we want to equip them with some of that how-to knowledge to set them up for success."
One of the lectures to which freshmen listened Tuesday was "First Year Fearless: Building an Unbreakable Foundation," by Darryl Bellamy Jr. He shared commonalities and stories he has found from his research collecting fears around the country. He said the top three fears include the fear of not being enough, the fear of failure, and the fear of judgment and rejection.
Bellamy told the crowd of students that failing is sometimes OK, and asked people to volunteer to share a time when they had failed, and what they learned from it.
Savannah Yon stood up and told a story about when she first took college-level courses in high school, how she received a C on an essay in her English class, and how a panic attack ensued afterward. However, she quickly learned that trying her best is what really matters.
"I learned that college and high school are completely different when it comes to learning levels, and that C's are OK," said Yon, who received a roar of applause.
Bellamy also handed out a "small, but powerful gift," called the "fearless band," which is a just a black wristband, but on the inside of it is inscribed the words, "I'm fearless inside."
"You can use this on a daily basis in order to push through fear and understand fear differently," he said.
Welcome Week is meant to prepare students for the next stage of their academic careers, but also to support the stage of their social lives. Throughout the week, students can attend different activities to get to know one another - a game night, an indigenous foods activity, line dancing, and more.
"All of the required stuff is during the day, and then during the evening, we ask the community to step forward and offer a variety of fun, interactive, optional programs," said Larsen. "It's not only important that they learn things, but it's also important that they build relationships, make friends, and have that social safety net, as well."