Newman University students returned to an unconventional first week of college with a bit of normalcy thrown in thanks to the Student Life office. The team put together a “Welcome Back Week” to create opportunities for the students to meet and greet and experience a little fun in a somewhat uncertain and stressful time.
Facial coverings were donned as students, staff and faculty enjoyed getting to know one another and settled into their semester routines.
Food and fun
With safety in mind and precautions in place, a traditional “Welcome Back Bash” was held Sunday, Aug. 23, during which time, students enjoyed making their own facial coverings, played some physically distanced games and savored some delicious local food-truck cuisine.
Throughout the first week of school, students were treated to daily nourishment as a variety of university departments hosted themed samplings, some featuring local businesses.
Monday started with muffins provided by the Admissions office, Cold Press 86 provided juices and parfaits Tuesday, Chick-fil-A was served for lunch on Wednesday, Great Western Dining put together some boxed lunches on Thursday and Friday was the first “Jet Friday” of the year with morning doughnuts and coffee for those who attended.
Students are often treated to celebrations during the first week of the year, yet this year’s celebrations looked a little different due to an ongoing national pandemic as staff and organizers stayed mindful of preventing spread.
Everything was individually wrapped, which meant less handling and safer delivery, and students were required to wear facial coverings and stay distanced.
Regardless of the new stipulations, students enjoyed the activities during the first week of their fall semester.
A traditional Mass
The annual Mass of the Holy Spirit and Matriculation Ceremony, which takes place at the beginning of each academic year, was held Aug. 27 inside Fugate Gymnasium in order to safely distance all individuals who attended.
Because of limited space, the Mass was also available virtually through live-streaming.
Although the university could not celebrate inside the recently renovated St. John’s Chapel, staff and faculty were grateful for the opportunity to welcome the newest class of freshmen in a traditional manner.
Bishop Carl A. Kemme celebrated Mass for nearly 200 freshmen seated within the bleachers as faculty celebrated and watched from seats arranged on the track above.
Kemme talked about change and the situations that people around the world have been facing in2020 while reminding everyone that God’s love will never falter and never change.
“Indeed it seems just like yesterday that we were gathered for this very Mass, albeit in our beautiful chapel from the campus of Newman University, calling down the Holy Spirit just 12 months ago,” he said. “But think what’s happened in 12 relatively fast and short months. So much has changed. Because we’re dealing with a new and troubling reality, the likes of which none of us have ever lived through before. A worldwide pandemic.”
He added, “Yes, life has changed. But you know the more I think about it, my dear friends, the most important things have not changed. The sun came up this morning. A new day has started. … But even more important than that, God’s love is eternal. That has not changed.”
Following Mass, Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Paul Carney, Ph.D., and Provost Kimberly Long, Ph.D., spoke to the freshmen, presenting them with positive messages and encouragement for their first academic year.
President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., also addressed the new class and officially welcomed them as Newman University students. She also spoke to the new students about gratefulness and faithfulness.
“I’m asking you to be grateful. … I want you to be grateful for those who went before you. For the friends of the college. Because I think virtually all of the students that attend Newman University receive some scholarship support. And that comes from former graduates, from alumni and community members and partners who believe in the potential of you and this university. Be grateful to God and be God’s.”
She encouraged the students to become fully involved within the Newman community, adding that by doing so, they will have a truly enriching higher education experience.