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By Kasey Brammell
Cronkite faculty and staff greeted incoming students with a Fall Welcome unlike any other in school history.
Instead of shaking hands in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum, where Fall Welcome is usually held, more than 150 new journalism students and faculty waved to one another through their screens as the event went virtual for the first time ever.
Despite distances of sometimes thousands of miles, students were able to meet with faculty and members of the Cronkite School staff, including Director of Career Services Mike Wong, Director of Student Success Mary Cook, and Cronkite News Executive Editor and Professor of Practice Christina Leonard, as well as fellow students who head clubs and student media organizations.
“The Fall Welcome is a Cronkite tradition, a chance to get incoming first-year students prepared for and excited about the semester ahead,” said Assistant Dean Melanie Alvarez. “It’s usually a fun time in the First Amendment Forum, full of energy and meetings and building tours. Since safety comes first in this unique semester, we needed to move the Fall Welcome to a virtual event, but we didn’t want to lose the energy and fun.”
Alvarez brought the energy and excitement through a series of callouts, where students enthusiastically unmuted their microphones to say hello to their peers. After the initial welcome, students were able to break into smaller groups to learn about as many on and off-campus opportunities as possible during five-minute speed meetings.
The virtual, small-group format enabled students to ask questions about what their classes will look like, when the Sun Devil Fitness Centers will reopen and how safety precautions will be enforced.
The welcome event was complete with a Class of 2024 Zoom photo and the students’ first extra credit opportunity.
Alvarez was concerned about “Zoom Fatigue” from students, as their past few months have been filled with virtual events, “but they proved me wrong,” she said. “They were engaged and excited.”
A short time after the student event, the students’ parents had their own virtual session with Cronkite deans and staff members, who answered dozens of questions about everything from internship opportunities to eating options.
“I understand how hard it is to send your child off to college,” Interim Dean Kristin Gilger told the group. “You worry about everything, and that’s especially true now.” She said the school will hold weekly meetings with parents to make sure lines of communication remain open.
Alvarez credited Jana Smith, Cronkite’s senior events coordinator, with helping to make the welcome event a success. The organizers expect Cronkite Student Organization Night, an event that allows students to find and connect with clubs to further explore their hobbies or interests, to follow a similar format on Zoom with an interactive PDF. Student Organization Night will be held at 5 p.m. on Aug. 25.