English Whitson week of welcomeTrenton Kirchberg wants to “bridge the gap between China and the United States,” and learning to speak Mandarin Chinese is an important first step toward his goal.

“I want to help alleviate the cultural misunderstandings and tensions between both countries,” the first-year WSU student said while sampling the diverse fare at the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures’ Week of Welcome open house.

Kirchberg, who plans to major in data analytics and minor in Chinese, was among nearly 800 incoming freshmen and transfer students who took part in a wide variety of events hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences and its various departments and schools during the WSU Week of Welcome (WoW) college kickoff in August.

New CAS students visited with faculty, staff, graduate students, and upperclassmen in their interest areas and gained first-hand views of classrooms, laboratories, libraries, museums, and other facilities on the Pullman campus.

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The array of college-wide activities began in the CUB Ballroom with a rousing performance of the WSU fight song by the Cougar Marching Band, followed with inspiring and informative presentations by CAS faculty and administrators along with representatives from four WSU student services and resource groups.

Opening roads to a new world

Larry Hufford, biology professor and CAS associate dean of faculty and academic affairs, encouraged incoming students to ask questions and to explore multiple fields to find what they are passionate about. He advised them to map out a plan early in their college careers but to be open to alternate routes.

The path to a degree is crisscrossed with opportunities, and plotting a course with “side trips” for additional exploration and discovery is key to making the journey meaningful, Hufford said.

Larry Hufford speaks to students at the CAS Week of Welcome kickoff.
Hufford

“No matter what your major may be, whether it is fine arts or physics, chemistry or sociology, or some other area, we want your classes and experiences at the University to open roads to a new world,” he said.

Samantha Swindell, clinical professor of psychology and assistant dean of assessment and curriculum, talked to students about what they can do to be successful during college and how to stand out from the crowd after graduation.

She broke down the undergraduate experience by year and recommended participating in events such as the Sept. 27 College of Arts & Sciences Career Fair Coaching event to start building a personalized portfolio of skills and leadership experiences in addition to their coursework.

Opportunities abound

Rudy Trejo speaks to student during CAS Week of Welcome kickoff
Trejo

Rudy Trejo, associate director of the WSU Office of Student Involvement, talked about the myriad organizations students can get involved with while at WSU. He noted that one in every two Cougars participates in the University’s 350 registered student organizations, and that 1,900 different student leadership positions are available on campus.

“According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly 2 million bachelor’s degrees are awarded on a yearly basis, with an average of 20 million students enrolled in post-secondary education,” Trejo said. “So what will you do to stand out, above the crowd?”

Judy Hopkins, internship coordinator at the WSU Academic Success & Career Center, underscored the importance of internships and the resources WSU provides to help students find them. She noted a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers that showed an astounding 95 percent of employers said internship experience is a major factor in hiring new grads.

Hopkins

Hopkins invited students to utilize the resources provided by the Academic Success & Career Center. The Center has a new job and internship search platform called Handshake to help students find relevant internship opportunities and also provides resources to learn about professional networking, how to research companies, and much more, she said.

Rebecca Craft, professor of psychology and CAS associate dean of research and graduate education, encouraged students to participate in undergraduate research opportunities to learn more about potential careers and to gain an edge in applying for jobs and graduate school. Working as part of a research team—not only in a laboratory—provides practical skills and experiences that are highly valued by employers, she said.

Rebecca Craft speaks to students at the CAS Week of Welcome kickoff.
Craft

Craft encouraged students interested in doing research to connect with faculty and graduate students in their program and to visit the Office of Undergraduate Research for more information. Additionally, she suggested students take the research skills course UNIV 199 to learn more about the scientific process and research basics.

Ben Calabretta, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement, talked about how to become involved in the local community. The center provides resources for students and faculty to participate in myriad community organizations, he said. Students can use the center’s website to find existing community service opportunities or they can work with CCE staff to create their own community-service oriented project. CCE helps students earn academic credit for their volunteer work and provides transportation for individuals without a vehicle.

Anjie Bertramson, senior global learning advisor for international programs, talked about studying abroad while at WSU. She mentioned Global Cougs 101, a 45-minute information session that covers the basics of studying abroad—starting with how to choose a program that will fit your personal interests and your academic and professional goals. WSU offers study abroad trips around the world for every major and also provides financial aid and scholarships, she said.

“I’m interested in becoming a veterinarian so zoology seemed liked the logical choice for me,” said prospective undergraduate researcher Samantha Casey, who visited the School of Biological Sciences and took part in its WoW activities.

faculty with sign and students
Pat Carter (left), interim director of the School of Biological Sciences, holds a sign to gather students interested in studying zoology.

“I didn’t know that undergraduate research was a thing until today,” Casey said. “I’m definitely interested in getting involved. It could be a great way to stand out from the crowd that will be trying to get into vet school.”

Casey and other prospective biology students enjoyed snacks and wandering among exhibits in the Conner Museum of Natural History where professors from across the biological sciences told them about the school’s diverse offerings. Frequently asked questions included what to expect from beginning biology courses and labs and how to get involved in research.

Informative, fun ways of welcome

Following the panel presentation, the college’s 16 departments and schools, as well as the Health Professions Student Resource Center, rolled out the welcome mat with informative and fun events for incoming students.

For example, in the anthropology department, faculty and graduate students provided hands-on introductions to the four primary study fields—cultural anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology. Prospective students also explored the Museum of Anthropology, which contains a variety of study subject matter, including stone tools used by ancient people in the Pacific Northwest and charts of extinct language groups of North America.

Incoming students were especially interested in learning about course selection for fall, career opportunities in anthropology, and what it is actually like to conduct research in the field, said graduate student Andrew Gilreath-Brown.

Prospective psychology students met and mingled over mocktails with department faculty and current undergraduate students involved in various psychology-related clubs and research. Academic advisors answered questions about course selection and getting involved in research, and passed out information about admissions requirements and acceptance rates for popular graduate programs in psychology, such as marriage and family counseling, quantitative psychology, and industrial psychology.

A student peers into a electronic landscape through a virtual reality headset.
A student peers into a electronic landscape through a virtual reality headset.

Students interested in majoring in English and digital technology and culture gathered with current English and DTC students, faculty, and staff in the Bundy Reading Room. They tested out a student-created virtual reality scene; examined models of the mouth, throat, and tongue to learn how language works; examined antique books and letters from WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections; and explored the many possibilities to learn deeply about creating animation, publishing books, building websites, writing poetry and prose, and reading everything from Shakespeare to graphic novels.

“A number of the students had never put on a VR (virtual reality) headset before, and this was their first experience navigating a 3-D environment in VR,” said English/DTC instructor Suzanne Anderson. “Some said they didn’t know what to expect in viewing a immersive environment and were ‘taken off-guard in a good way’ by the feeling of moving around within VR space.”

In the Fine Arts Building, new students viewed recent work by art professors and current students, toured a number of studios and galleries, and watched a demonstration of 3-D sculptural printing. Co-founders of the student Art Club, sophomore Sidney Westenskow and junior Kira Walters, invited the new students—regardless of their major—to “join the club, hang out, share ideas, build their résumé, and build community.”

Trenton Kirchberg and Hong Wei Wang discuss the meaning of Chinese characters in an image on his phone.
Kirchberg (left) and Wang discuss the meaning of Chinese characters in an image on his phone.

In Thompson Hall, Kirchberg and other students interested in studying foreign languages and cultures were treated to a world of fun and flavors as faculty from around the globe, many dressed in traditional garb, offered games and refreshments popular in other countries.

Between stops on his “world tour,” Kirchberg pulled up a photo on his phone showing a small statue inscribed with Chinese characters. It was a gift from some international friends, he said, and asked visiting scholar Hongwei “Anna” Wang to translate it.

“Endurance,” she said, touching off a lively discussion with Kirchberg about the word’s various semantic forms and nuances.

Top photo: Assistant Professor Roger Whitson (right) talks with incoming students about the power of a degree in English. (Top & VR photos by Ruth Gregory)

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–by Adrian Aumen and Will Ferguson, College of Arts and Sciences