University welcomes students back with multitude of events

Rodney the Ram rides on the back of the Peppas pickup truck at New Student Convocation on Aug. 23. Photo by Megan Lee

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Students gathered in Monroe Park as Rodney the Ram rode on the back of a pickup truck with the university’s pep band on Monday during New Student Convocation. 

Last year’s Weeks of Welcome activities were mostly virtual due to COVID-19, however, the university plans to host certain events in person this fall to welcome new students and returning sophomores who lacked a proper welcome last fall. The University’s Weeks of Welcome will take place between Aug 23. and Sept. 23. 

Sophomore finance major Alex Barton just transferred to VCU. He said he feels safe attending larger events because of VCU’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement. All students, faculty and staff are required to get a COVID-19 vaccination unless they have a religious or health or exemption. 

“I don’t think I’d ever be excited to be in a classroom,” Barton said.

The university reinstated its indoor mask mandate on Aug. 9, which affects indoor activities hosted at the University Student Commons, such as movie nights. University spokesperson Matt Lovisa stated masks should be worn in outdoor situations where six feet of distance cannot be maintained and at events with over 50 people. 

VCU hosted New Student Convocation from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. complete with food trucks, a bouncy house, a concert by Echosmith and speeches by both President Michael Rao and men’s basketball coach Mike Rhoades. Many students attended the event, and most were unmasked.

Students line up outside The Commons to touch VCU’s ram horns and make a wish. Photo by Megan Lee

Students of all ages gathered in Monroe Park to walk to The Commons to complete a university tradition of touching the ram horns while making a wish. Fraternities, sororities and community members lined the streets and cheered the students on as they walked around campus.

Sophomore communication arts major Elianna Karo attended the event, despite not being a freshman. She lived on campus last year and is living in West Grace South as a sophomore this year. 

“I missed a lot last year, so I wanted to see what VCU usually does for freshmen,” Karo said.

She said she’s looking forward to pushing herself out of her comfort zone while being on campus. The sophomore said she has already met more people in the past few days than she did her entire first year.

“I’m pushing myself by being more social,” Karo said. “A lot of freshmen are kinda in the same boat.”

Events the university is boasting include The Commons Take-Over and the Student Organization Fair. The Student Organization Fair is one of the largest events VCU hosts, according to the university website. It’s held biannually at the beginning of each semester.

The fair will be held virtually between Aug. 23 and 26 and an in-person Student Organization Fair will be held on Aug. 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m in Monroe Park. The virtual fair will be held via RamsConnect where students can search for clubs and contact student leaders. 

The university is also offering grab-and-go activities, where students can pick up materials needed at The Commons and participate in activities on their own time. Students must register in advance on RamsConnect for grab-and-go events as spots are limited. 

Those events include paint night, movie night with provided snacks and game night with provided card games. All events are free to students. The Commons is also hosting virtual game nights for students who don’t wish to gather in groups. 

A full list of Weeks of Welcome activities are available on RamsConnect.

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