This weekend, Newman University officially welcomed first-year students of the class of 2025 to the Jet family.
Newman orientation events — also referred to as Jet Days — rely on participation across several departments to make the exciting introduction to college possible.
Residence Life and student athletes helped first-year students move their belongings into Carrocci Hall for move-in day on Thursday. After a long day of unpacking and settling into their new on-campus homes, students then had a chance to unwind at the student luau in the courtyard between Carrocci and Fugate halls.
Watch the student luau video recap, created by first-time student and admissions social media ambassador Abigail Thornton:
On Friday morning, the Newman Cheer & Dance team greeted students and parents as they entered DeMattias Hall for check-in, light breakfast sundries and a welcome from university administration in the Performance Hall.
A diverse new class
The class of 2025 includes students from all over the U.S., as well as Mexico, England, Zimbabwe and beyond.
“I was attracted to the sense of humanity at Newman, and then I found the biology pre-med program and loved it,” Armando Ibarra, a first-year student from Mexico, said.
Ibarra, who hopes to become a surgeon someday, said he discovered the Newman biology pre-medicine program while researching colleges online.
“I’m excited to learn even more about the university through orientation and the first week of school,” he added.
Michelle and Tim Canez attended orientation with their daughter Madison, who wheeled the family’s cherry-red stroller down the first-floor hallway toward the DeMattias atrium. The precious cargo included a fluffy white dog by the name of Mocha.
“She’s like my little sister,” Madison said with a smile. “We always bring her everywhere. We’ll put a blanket over the stroller and take her in with us to restaurants. She’s our little baby.”
Originally, Madison’s heart was set on attending college in southern California. Then Head Softball Coach Andrea Gustafson saw Madison play and encouraged her to learn more about Newman.
“It was crazy how the stars all lined up,” Michelle said. “Coach started talking with her and just built that relationship with her, and the small, close-knit school is perfect. We’re also Catholic, so the religion is all there and then softball lined up. So we just couldn’t have hoped for a better opportunity for her.”
Coming from a small liberal arts high school made for a fairly easy decision, Madison said.
“I plan to find my purpose here, get involved and really just be open with everything,” Madison said.
A full day of fun
Introductory welcomes featured Newman President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, dean of students, as well as student body president Shanice Gitungo. All three offered resources to help ease the incoming class into college life, and assured parents that their children are on the best path to success.
“One of my greatest endeavors is to get to know each of our students well so I can support them and their needs individually,” Schneikart-Luebbe said. “Part of our process is to provide parents with an overview of the infrastructure of support we provide for their students.”
She noted that the parents were particularly engaged this year, and asked many questions that will help make the support system even sturdier.
“Our students are ever-evolving and we need to do the same as we want to stay current on their wants and needs,” she added. “We are always looking for ways to adjust and be responsive to our most precious resource, our students.”
Following the information session, students departed from their parents and headed to the Fugate Gym for “the ultimate icebreakers” with Playfair. Students played the role of “hype men” for their fellow classmates, took part in get-to-know-you questions, as well as some intense games of rock-paper-scissors.
Students ended the first half of their day with lunch in the Mabee Dining Center, then reconvened with their parents over an outdoor ice cream social. The new class could then be seen sprinting across different parts of campus as part of the Student Government Association’s social media scavenger hunt.
“The students got to meet and have fun with people from all around the world,” Vanessa Rials, director of multicultural engagement and campus life said. “Many students told me they had a great time and were really thankful we took the time to make the day special for them.”
Continuing the comradery
Despite the 99-degree Kansas weather, the new class enthusiastically loaded onto the party bus that would transport them to Exploration Place. Alumni Kyle Mazza (‘19) and Gabrielle Altenor (‘21) spoke with the students about what to expect and how to get the most out of their college experiences. Schneikart-Luebbe even shared a few budgeting tips with the first-year students.
After asking questions and receiving advice, the students followed the science center’s corridors into a room with wide windows overlooking the Keeper of the Plains. There, they organized themselves into rows for their first-ever college class photo.
A few “cheeses” later and the class was on its way to Chicken N Pickle for the final off-campus endeavor of the night. The crew danced to songs on the party bus and 20 minutes later, they arrived at the pickleball destination. The college students chowed down on catered barbeque chicken sandwiches, tortilla chips and a cheesy chicken dip between games of bean bag toss, giant Jenga and foosball.
“The atmosphere at Newman really allowed our students to feel welcomed and created a space for them to feel comfortable to be themselves,” Rials said. “In just a few hours, I had seen students start to open up and meet new friends.”
Rials added, “It’s an exciting thing to be able to watch the future leaders learn and grow. I have no doubt that our students will transform society.”
It takes a team
Schneikart-Luebbe echoed Rials’ sentiments and added her own gratitude for the team efforts of the day.
“It takes a village,” Schneikart-Luebbe said. “Vanessa (Rials) began July 26 and Chris Mershon, our new Lead For Kansas Fellow, began the Monday before orientation, so she hadn’t even been here a week before she was immersed in the process.”
She added, “I am so grateful to each of the areas that helped us put our best foot forward during this important campus ritual. Watching the students dance on the party bus and engage with each other, and reading some of the text messages sent to Admissions regarding the positive impact orientation had on our students was very encouraging.”
One student shared the following in their feedback: “Today was unforgettable and truly such an amazing way to kick off my college experience. It was surreal to encounter and get to know so many people from so many different backgrounds. Getting to know and have conversations with these people was my greatest takeaway. Thank you to everyone who made today truly fun, special and unforgettable!”
Schneikart-Luebbe said these are the types of messages Newman loves to receive.
“Our goal always is to provide meaningful information in a fun and engaging way,” she said. “Students have communicated that we have achieved that.”
All students who participated in orientation are eligible to receive a Newman T-shirt by visiting the Student Affairs office in Dugan, scanning the QR code in the window and completing their evaluation of orientation day’s events.
“As previously mentioned, student feedback is critical to our success,” Schneikart-Luebbe added. “We look forward to reviewing all of the feedback we receive.”
Watch the video recap of orientation day.
To view more Newman University videos, visit our YouTube channel.
Find more photos from the 2021-22 orientation on our Facebook page.