University welcomes students back with more than 170 events

Rodney the Ram and members of The Peppas march towards campus down West Main Street, leading the annual Ram Spirit Walk. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Katrina Lee, News Editor

Hundreds of students in black and gold t-shirts gathered at Monroe Park on Monday during the university’s New Student Convocation, where President Michael Rao welcomed VCU’s class of 2026. 

The University Student Commons put on events such as the New Student Convocation the first couple weeks of classes for VCU’s Weeks of Welcome, allowing students to explore campus and meet new people, according to their website. 

“This is a place that will really shape you. You have a team of faculty behind you at this institution that are dedicated towards your growth,” Rao said during the event. 

Rao also said students will love their experience at the university and to be proud of who they are. 

Students were then led by Rodney the Ram and the university’s pep band down the streets on and around campus during the university’s annual Ram Spirit Walk. A multitude of student organizations lined the streets where the walk took place, chanting “let’s go VCU” and cheering. 

Freshman business student Cory Harrison said he has lived close to Richmond his whole life in South Chester, but came to VCU excited to live on his own in the city. 

“There are no big buildings like this,” Harrison said. “And they [VCU] said there was diversity and I mean I wasn’t really expecting it, it’s everywhere. I am from close by but this is completely different. I feel far away.” 

Harrison said he has been attending a lot of events the university has put on since moving in this last weekend. He also said he was surprised by the amount of people in his freshman class. 

“There are a lot of things to do and a lot of people to meet,” Harrison said.

The Student Organization & Volunteer Opportunity Fair is a Weeks of Welcome event taking place in Monroe Park this Friday, where students will have the chance to connect with over 500 student organizations. 

Assistant Director for Student Organizations, Leadership and Civic Engagement and Weeks of Welcome Co-Chair Nicole Patterson said the Weeks of Welcome’s purpose is to help new and returning students make “vital connections” the first couple weeks they are on campus. 

“We know it’s very important based on research for students to make those connections early so they feel like they have a place at VCU,” Patterson said.

Patterson said they also identified three groups of “specialized populations” this Weeks of Welcome session, which are for sophomores, commuters and transfers. Patterson said the Commons believes these groups need more “appreciation and welcome” this year, and are putting on specific events for these populations.  

There is now a return of a sense of normalcy this session since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of the variety of event options and the number of VCU offices participating in the events, Patterson said. 

“We are excited to be back pretty much at full force this session, and we hope that everyone feels welcomed and spirited,” Patterson said.

Most of the students were unmasked at the events on Monday, following the university enacting a new policy of voluntary masking indoors and outdoors on campus, with the exception of clinical settings and health system facilities, according to the VCU One Together website.

Marketing freshman Jenna Stevens said she loves VCU already based on community and academic opportunities she has already seen.

“I love the diversity. It’s not just diverse in race, it’s diverse in abilities, talents and personalities,” Stevens said. 

Stevens also said she is planning on attending more of the Weeks of Welcome events in the next couple weeks in order to meet new people.

“I am already setting up my calendar and writing stuff down,” Stevens said.

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