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New Eagles + New Nest = Welcome Week

By Patrick Bradley

Incoming students doing volunteer work landscaping on the National Mall for Welcome Wee.

Incoming students will serve, learn, and explore their new city and campus together during Welcome Week.

A Welcome Ca-Caw

Meaghan Wilson is ready to welcome you to AU. But she’s not alone. In fact, a host of staff, faculty, and students are waiting to make AU’s newest Eagles feel right at home in their new nest, and they’ve got the programs to prove it.

Wilson, a rising international studies senior, is part of a team that plans and supports Welcome Week, the events and programs that mark freshmen's first days on campus.

Traditions, including Freshman Service Experience, Discover DC, and Explore DC, feature everything from service projects and career planning to bike trips across Washington, D.C., and musical act Lupe Fiasco on campus—a variety of activities meant to engage AU’s varied student body and get them settled in.

“There’s definitely something for everyone,” Wilson said. “As much as we say, ‘We’re the political school. We have the most internships,’ we are very diverse if you stop to look around.”

Diverse is right.

The class of 2017 comes from 46 states and 54 different countries, from Tanzania to Austria. Plus, the group includes 50 “global nomad” freshmen—U.S. citizens representing 40 different countries of residency and now returning to the States for college.

Unique? Certainly

Katie Bowen, assistant director of New Student Programs in the Office of Campus Life, oversees Wilson and her team’s work. After five years in the orientation business, she is quick to point out just how unique AU’s welcome for its students really is.

Part of that distinction comes from the university’s location in the heart of the nation’s capital.

“AU is the only place I’ve seen that really connects the campus community with the broader community of the city,” she said. “Much like we do with the internships and service throughout the year, Welcome Week is the first time that students understand AU is just one part of the larger city.”

Designed and led by students, staff, and faculty, Discover DC and Explore DC introduce students to the District through specific areas of interest in almost two dozen programs. “Going Global” will bring students to the State Department, while the “DC Molecule by Molecule” group will visit NASA and the National Institutes of Health.

If you think these programs sound a bit wonkish, it’s because they are. Then again, so are these new students.

They earned an average 3.74 GPA in high school and an average SAT score of 1256 on a 1600 scale, distinguishing themselves in their competitive applicant pool of more than 17,000 accomplished students.

Service for a Start

For those students who want to serve their new home city, the Freshmen Service Experience lets them learn first-hand about issues facing this city.

Rising public health junior Diana Williams is in her second year organizing FSE, a program that will see more than 550 incoming students work with nonprofit organizations and community partners at almost 50 sites across the city.

The program made a lasting impression on Williams when she participated as a freshman, as she now volunteers countless hours through AU’s Center for Community Engagement & Service.

“It really opened my eyes to how much community service needs to be done. Why not do my part in helping?” she said. “I’m a real big community service person now, though I wouldn’t have considered myself that before.”

FSE projects range from promoting AIDS awareness to feeding the hungry, and for the first time in the program’s history, students are able to choose the issue area addressed in their work—urban education, community health, hunger and homelessness, art for social change, or environmental justice

Upper-class Advice

Whether through Discover DC, Freshmen Service Experience, or Explore DC, three quarters of the incoming class is expected to take part in Welcome Week programming—a total of more than 1,300 students.

Without the stresses of class and homework, freshmen will have plenty of time to get to know everything from the campus buildings and the city’s Metro system to each other and—maybe even—themselves.

Wilson, who wants to pursue a career in orientation work, is passionate about giving students the perfect welcome to AU.

Part of that welcome comes in the form of advice from her and her team—words from a seasoned group of Eagles to the university’s newest flock: “Get excited! Welcome Week is so much fun. Get ready for the next four exciting years.”


Learn more about Welcome Week’s after-hours activities and daytime programming.