West Virginia University may not have a welcome mat large enough to introduce 5,000 of its newest students into the Mountaineer family.
Yet its methods of embracing a new class into the arms of West Virginia’s flagship, land-grant university are more spirited and visceral than simply rolling out a carpet.
Take, for instance, the one foolproof way of bringing all true Mountaineers together – the singing of Country Roads. On Sunday, the Class of 2017 belted out the first of what will be many renditions of the John Denver song during the New Student Welcome celebration at the WVU Coliseum.
DaQuan Yarbough came prepared.
The pre-engineering freshman from Charleston already knew the beloved tune by heart. He has an aunt and uncle who are WVU alumni (his uncle Jon Jones played for the football team in the early 1990s).
Despite his familiarity with “Country Roads,” Yarbough still experienced the first-day jitters in his new Morgantown environment.
—WVU President Jim Clements
“I’m feeling a lot of anxiety,” he said. “But I needed to get out of my comfort zone and come to a bigger school like this.”
Yarbough said he’s looking forward to classes and possibly joining a fraternity and an intramural basketball team.
WVU President Jim Clements was one of several speakers who tried to ease the worries of the incoming students, who begin classes Monday.
Clements offered freshmen a piece of advice he was never given during his first day of college.
“One of my professors said to my class, ‘Look at the person on your left and look at the person on your right,’” Clements said. “Then he said, ‘One of you won’t be here next year.’
“My advice to you today is very different. I say to you, ‘Look at the person on your left and now look at the person on your right. Please try to help that person succeed—because I want all of you to be here next year and I want all of you to graduate.”
On a personal note, Clements acknowledged his twin daughters, who are also part of the Class of 2017.
“I am very proud of both of you and I know that you can and will make your dreams come true,” he told his daughters.
Provost Michele Wheatly, another administrator who’s no stranger to having children in college, led students in an exercise by asking them to stand and shout, “That’s me!” when her statement resonated with them. For instance, “If you were born in West Virginia, say ‘That’s me!,” or “If you’re here to meet smart women, say ‘That’s me!’” She then had students take her academic pledge, which includes “studying until your brains drop out.”
Students then learned some lessons from a successful alumna who sat in their seats nearly a decade ago.
Sarah Lovell Soliman, a Martinsburg native who now works in defense intelligence, gave the class a bit of unconventional advice when she told them to “go away. I don’t want you here. I want you ? studying abroad.”
Soliman, a 2007 WVU graduate in biometric systems and computer engineering, is a prime example of how study abroad opportunities in college can help jumpstart a career. She showed several study abroad photos – from Iceland to Iraq to Italy – on the video screen to the students
“I’m not a big city girl,” Soliman said. “I grew up in West Virginia; my parents didn’t finance this, my dad didn’t even own a passport. This was not a normal path. Where I went was because of how my time at WVU shaped and educated and prepared me for the world.”
Soliman asked students to tweet her their own study abroad dream locations.
“Take the Mountaineer spirit with you abroad and come back to tell others about it,” she continued. “Be a Mountaineer ambassador to the world.”
Also a beneficiary of WVU scholarships, Soliman established a $25,000 endowment in honor of her mentor, engineering professor Wils Cooley, so others would have the same opportunities at WVU as she did. Soliman created this endowment before age 30.
To end Sunday’s program, Student Government Association President Ryan Campione and the Mountaineer mascot, Jonathan Kimble, led the class in a series of cheers before topping it off with “Country Roads.”
Students were encouraged to tweet using the hashtag #wvu17. They weren’t shy to express their emotions via Twitter.
Emily Neady, a pre-forensic and investigative science major, said, “You know you are in the right place when you get chills sitting with your incoming freshman class.”
New Student Welcome was just one of a series of events of Welcome Week to introduce the Class of 2017 to the University.
On Friday, students bid farewell to their families and said ‘hello’ to their new home during Move-In Day. On Saturday, new students spent the day engaged in First-Year Academy events, and on Monday night, they can celebrate the start of the semester with FallFest 2013, a free concert open to WVU students.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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