The 2018 Orientation Week, which ran from Aug. 23 to Aug. 28, included large-scale changes for new students and upperclassmen. Passage students and music majors, as well as cross-cultural, transfers and first-generation students moved in Thursday, Aug. 23. Remaining new students arrived the next day.
A major change put in action this orientation week was a new celebration of first-generation college students. On Friday, a First-Generation Student and Parent Lunch was held. First-generation students were also able to move in on Thursday, a day earlier than usual. “We’ve celebrated our legacy students as an institution but we have not celebrated those who are trailblazing. So we just thought it was an important opportunity for us to really recognize and support them and call that out and be a campus that is hospitable to all of our students,” said Dean of Student Engagement Steve Ivester.
Go Day also included major changes this year. Ivester explained that the group of students who participated was more inclusive than before. Freshmen athletes were especially encouraged to attend and coaches opened up practice schedules to make attendance possible.
The staff’s posture toward Go Day also changed. “We no longer really see it as a community service day but more as a day for learning and partnering with our neighbors in Chicago and building a posture of humility and openness to receive and build friendship with our neighbors in the city,” Ivester told the Record.
For the first time, Go Guide leaders were trained in Chicago by local partners. Go Guides are upperclassmen who lead the freshmen during Go Day. According to junior Julian Petoske, a sociology major who served as a Go Guide, there were four Go Guide leaders at each of the 22 sites.
On Monday morning, Aug. 27, the freshman class took buses to the south side of Chicago to learn from and serve the communities around them. The freshmen, Go Day leaders and local partners first congregated at the Apostolic Church of God in the Woodlawn neighborhood upon arriving in Chicago. After a prayer, Ivester introduced Go Day and Director of the Center for Urban Engagement Noah Toly who spoke about the history behind Go Day. Before the students traveled in groups to their respective sites, there was also a multilingual time of worship and a panel discussion to learn more about the purpose of Go Day.
According to Ivester, the 22 sites were more centered on Woodlawn this year, where Wheaton in Chicago students reside. However, there were also sites in other neighborhoods in Chicago’s south and west neighborhoods. Some of the partners include Sunshine Gospel Ministries, Hope Works and World Vision.
Although the Orientation Committee formed in mid-November, planning for Orientation Week started in January, according to junior economics major Cory Trotti. Trotti’s role on Orientation Committee was threefold. He served as T-shirt Designer, Co-Thunder Move-In Coordinator and Co-Volunteer Coordinator. Trotti was one of 13 members of Orientation Committee. The theme of orientation this year was “Al-Tirah,” meaning “fear not” in Hebrew. Al-Tirah draws directly from Luke 12:32, which states, “Fear not, little flock; for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
According to Ivester, writing a class song has been a tradition since the 1920s. This year’s class song draws from the verse and theme. Both Trotti and Ivester explained that the selection process of the theme and its upcoming role on campus differed starkly from other years.
This year, Orientation Committee worked with the chaplain’s office in “combining efforts” to form a theme and verse. Chaplain Blackmon proposed that the Orientation Week verse serve simultaneously as the schoolwide verse. Ivester said that aligning the theme and verse would help in pointing “new and returning students towards the same Scriptural truths.” Ivester explained that while Chaplain Blackmon chose the verse, the theme of Al-Tirah was creatively brainstormed by the students on Orientation Committee.
Trotti said that Al-Tirah served as a reminder before and throughout Orientation Week
that “we don’t have to fear.”