Exactly what does Week of Welcome Plus add up to?


Crowds gather outside “Scientists Run Amok” WOW Plus event.

Kara Wright, Staff Writer

As an IUS student who’s experiencing her first fall semester, sophomore Natalie Stewart has been impressed thus far with the many campus activities that make up Week of Welcome Plus, which continues through October 26.  

A biology major who lives on campus, Stewart transferred last January from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology more than 100 miles away. There, during the week before classes began in Fall 2021, student-centered events occurred such as a movie night along with clubs tabling to recruit members. 

At IUS, the Week of Welcome Plus has caught the attention of Stewart and others.  

Stewart says she “loves how it keeps the excitement of coming back to school” at IUS. 

As the daily grind of classes, homework and deadlines settled in right after Labor Day weekend, Stewart and other newcomers have enjoyed the multi-week extension of activities and events to coax all students into spending more time on campus between and after classes. “Instead of hitting a slump after everything dies down” when the five-day Welcome Week ended Labor Day weekend, Stewart said, the extension has helped keep her and some peers enthused about their overall college experience.  

Free food—whether it was Zaxby’s chicken sandwiches or ice cream cones—has drawn plenty to McCullough Plaza. Some midday snacking students mingle near the clock tower. 

These bonus weeks are made up of indoor and outdoor activities as varied as cornhole games, mental health screenings for depression and anxiety, a career fair, and a technology fair that featured plenty of free IUS-branded swag. All these events have taken place during lunch hours to reach the largest number of potential students. 

“The energy was palpable,” said Amanda Stonecipher, vice chancellor for enrollment, marketing and student affairs. “What I heard from the individuals hosting a table is that the interactions were very positive, lengthy. The energy was wonderful.”   

Every year, Welcome Week activities and opportunities aim to improve retention of students and build school affinity and a sense of belonging. A year ago, for example, 72% of undergraduates from Fall 2020 re-enrolled in classes, according to IUS retention data. 

Stonecipher is unsure whether IUS will repeat the “Plus” portion of Welcome Week next year. But she and other administrators are receptive to doing so depending on student feedback.  

A year ago, Welcome Week activities took place on a smaller scale. Interim Chancellor Kelly Ryan noted that because many juniors did not have Welcome Week when they were first-year students in 2020—COVID vaccines were still under development—there’s a sense of making up for a missed opportunity.  

“They [students] want to do the things they set out to do when they graduated high school,” Ryan said. “Now is the time to strike. We have this new class coming in and we want them to experience the campus in all the ways. So, we made it a priority as a group.” 

Faculty have said there’s an uptick in students being more active in classroom discussions rather than waiting for professors to give them every answer.  

“We know that students are more successful in college when they actually meet other people, when they join organizations,” Ryan said. “All of these things are touchstones of success.”  

Stonecipher added that faculty members have been all too excited about the experience.  

“Faculty and staff like those moments and opportunities where they can have fun and interact with students outside of an office or a classroom,” she said. “Seeing faculty and staff having fun and interacting is so important because it breaks down these perceived barriers of relationships” between employees and students. 

The exact costs of Welcome Week and WOW Plus aren’t known. Stonecipher said that hosts of individual events, such as academic schools and programs, have financed food, giveaways and other amenities.  

Despite the benefits and good vibes, however, there is still bound to be a bit of doubt. The resounding question of skeptics everywhere is this: Are these events being well received, and do they positively impact the campus? 

How do you feel about Welcome Week Plus? Is it truly worth the fuss? If so, do you have an idea for future events and activities?  

Or is all this a series of minuses rather than pluses? Can you even swallow one more bite of free food?   

Students are encouraged to email Stonecipher directly at agstonec@ius.edu