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Welcome events draw huge crowds
August 29, 1997

The Husky Weeks of Welcome got off to a rousing start at the opening night event in the Jorgensen Auditorium on Sunday.

Following a new format launched last year to replace the poorly attended formal convocation ceremony, orientation leaders and University officials welcomed new students on their first day on campus with a lively introduction to the blend of social and academic life that marks the UConn experience.

The event launched a month of events designed to help students in their freshman year, including a campus-wide picnic on Tuesday that drew an estimated 8,000 people to the Student Union Mall.

This year's opening event was so well attended, Jorgensen staff had to open the balcony to accommodate the more than 1,500 students - mostly freshmen - who came.

The evening was an opportunity to establish traditions - singing the alma mater, playing the Husky Fight Song, and dancing the orientation "O" dance. It was also an occasion to instill pride in UConn - "home of the best marching band on the face of the earth," according to Chancellor and Provost for University Affairs Mark Emmert, who served as master of ceremonies.

President Philip Austin told the Class of 2001: "Be proud of the place and take it seriously during the years we are privileged to have you with us."

He pointed to UConn 2000 as a source of optimism about the University.

"Any university president will tell you it's an exciting time," he said. "You have as evidence for that excitement the construction around campus, a metaphor for the faith the elected leadership place in UConn to be the vehicle through which the aspirations of the state will be achieved."

The students listened with rapt attention to a presentation that demonstrated the best of teaching at UConn, as psychology professor Michael Turvey urged them to set standards for themselves.

"The freshman year is a very challenging experience. Some will do extremely well, a good many will do not so well," he said. "Develop your own benchmarks, standards, and seek to raise them."

He emphasized the role they must play to make the most of the resources UConn offers. "Expect at this University the best education of anywhere in the world. The opportunity is here," he said. "You have the facilities; you must take advantage of them."

Turvey said the office hours offered by professors provide an opportunity for a one-on-one education and should be used.

"This is the time, these four years, when you build your life," he said.

With that, it was time to begin those years.

"From this moment, you are no longer incoming students, you are no longer prospective students," said orientation leaders Joshua Ruminski and Jennifer Ridder, to a cascade of balloons descending from the ceiling, " You are the class of 2001."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu