On Friday, Aug. 19, Lobos flooded the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico for Friday Night Live, a one-night activity event kicking off Welcome Back Days. Laser tag, casino games and free food were just a few of the highlights from the late-night gathering.
This event was only the first in a series of events called Welcome Back Days, aimed at welcoming students back to campus after summer break — other planned events include the Class Crawl, Movie on the Field, President’s Ice Cream Social and UNM Community Day.
The primary purpose of this kickoff event was to connect students not only with one another, but with the various organizations and clubs available on campus, according to Student Activities Center advisor Rudy Montoya.
“It’s primarily intended to get students connected; it’s a little bit more social … We’ve invited chartered student organizations to showcase their work … It’s a good chance for them to share who they are, what they’re doing, recruit new members,” Montoya said.
For Ethan Krammer, a senior studying nuclear engineering and former president of the American Nuclear Society at UNM, the event helps with networking and getting the word out about their organization to students as well as spreading the word about nuclear engineering more broadly.
“It works for us two-fold. Our first thing is obviously to get people that are interested in nuclear policy and energy and power and get them involved in our student section here on campus, but we’re also here to inform people about nuclear energy (so they) know … it’s a thing that is good for combating climate change,” Krammer said.
Montoya emphasized how an event like this can allow new and returning students alike to form new connections with people and organizations across campus.
“The biggest opportunity is connections. It allows people to meet each other … We get a lot of brand new students who’ve just moved to campus; they’ve been in the residence halls around campus for an entire day at this point … It’s a great way for new people to have an experience and become friends. It’s a great for returning groups, returning friends to connect with each other and be in campus and in person and sort of just engage all around,” Montoya said.
The event helps to make starting college a less intimidating experience, according to Rosie Deal, a freshman exercise science major.
“It makes it a little bit less scary, too, because I feel like people look more approachable now that like, you know, we’re having a party together,” Deal said.
Tristian Ruiz, a business management major and public relations head of UNM board game and role-playing game club Tabletop Tavern, recalled his own experience of joining Tabletop Tavern and how clubs and organizations on campus can help students find a sense of community.
“I was looking specifically for a place to play (Dungeons & Dragons). It wasn’t until this club was made that I had that sort of club … And from this, I’ve met half the people I hang out with on campus. Without it, honestly, I wouldn’t know a lot of people,” Ruiz said.
The importance of Welcome Back Days as a whole comes down to community, according to Montoya.
“It’s one thing to look at a ton of brochures and emails that students have received … It can be easier and more engaging to be able to walk around a set of tents or tables or in a building and actually see the people who are behind these programs and services. Not just to realize how vast and diverse the UNM community is, but also to be able to find their place and see what works for them, what’s interesting to them,” Montoya said.
John Scott is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JScott050901