A solution to ease the fears and anxieties of incoming freshmen came two years ago from the Office of Student Activities. A group of student volunteers became known as the Hoot Squad to effectively put the “welcome” in Welcome Week.
Surviving as an incoming freshman at Temple University is no easy task. Making it to every one of the university’s Welcome Week programs is nearly impossible, and finding one’s way around campus is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
But with the creation of Temple’s Hoot Squad came the hope that student leaders would be able to make memorable Welcome Week events and ensure no students or parents’ questions went unanswered.
“The main purpose of the Hoot Squad is to engage new students in exciting and fun activities, and make them feel at home here and comfortable,” said Maureen Fisher, program coordinator in the Office of Student Activities.
Fisher, who has coordinated the Hoot Squad for the past two years along with Program Coordinator Jen Fitzwater, said the idea for a welcoming committee came from a Student Activities meeting that focused on making upperclassmen more active in welcoming freshmen and transfer students to the university.
“We really needed incoming students to meet other students, not just staff and administration,” Fisher said.“I became point person because working with student activities is something I really like doing.”
To make the position as a squad member available to all students, Fisher advertised in Temple Today and contacting members of student organizations through listservs.
When senior Nexus Cook received the e-mail, she knew she was the best candidate for the job.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to get to meet incoming freshmen and give them resources I didn’t necessarily get as a freshman,” she said.
Cook is also the vice president of external affairs for the Temple Student Government.
“I’m pretty involved on campus and I feel like I know a lot of resources,” she said. “I’m just going to let the students know that they’re paying money to be here, so they should make the most out of however long they’re here for.”
The Hoot Squad will visit all of the residence halls prior to Welcome Week to inform students about the schedule of events that will take place from Aug. 27 to Sept. 1. Hoot Squad volunteers will assist students moving into residence halls to create a welcoming environment for first-timers living on campus.
Last year the Hoot Squad featured 45 student leaders. This year there are 100, and some of those returning were given the position of team captains for their small groups.
“I met a lot of people [through the Hoot Squad] that I didn’t know before, and really got to see what they were doing on campus and what kind of impact they were having,” said senior Tiffany Jenkins, who reapplied as a member for the Hoot Squad after participating in Welcome Week last year. “I also love leadership and community service, and I feel like I get more school pride and more social awareness, just being here for the incoming freshmen.”
“I feel like the Hoot Squad puts a lot of people at ease,” Fisher said. “Hopefully they’re a group of students who have the best answers, and they can serve their role as builders of excitement and fun. I’m happy knowing they’re the first people the new students will meet.
Gabriel Katz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org