The University of Missouri Summer Welcome for 50 years has been teaching first-year students and transfer students the ins and outs of student life.
Incoming first-year students and their parents filled the lower level of the MU Student Center on Tuesday. Tables were staffed with people from MU offices, resources and organizations.
Alex Steinbrecher, 18, was there with her parents, Samantha and Erik Steinbrecher. They're from Oswego, Illinois, about an hour north of Chicago. Alex had visited campus in the winter, when there was snow on the ground.
"I really loved the campus here," Alex said. "It was really welcoming. I'm really excited about the nursing program here. It offers so many opportunities."
The three spent a little time at a Navy ROTC table, but much more time at an Army ROTC table. Alex said she was "thinking about" joining the Army ROTC.
She said he has enjoyed the Summer Welcome.
"I've met a lot of great people here," she said. "They want you to have a really good time."
Her parents said the program also has been reassuring for them.
"They're throwing a lot of information her way," Erik Steinbrecher said. Samantha Steinbrecher said university officials have let parents know how they can stay connected, but also keep a distance.
Running from June 10 through July 12, this Summer Welcome is busier than it has been the the past several years. The incoming crop of new students will be the largest since 2015, when 6,191 first-time freshmen enrolled for the fall semester. The low point was in the fall of 2017, when 4,134 students just out of high school enrolled for classes.
David Rielley, MU senior coordinator of new student programs, on Tuesday said 5,200 freshmen and 620 transfer students and their parents had registered for Summer Welcome. Freshmen have a one-and-a-half day program and transfer students have one day, he said.
A new group of students comes to campus every weekday. There are 36 paid student welcome leaders who are trained extensively before the students arrive.
"At any given time, there are 1,200 people here on campus for orientation," Rielley said. He said there's 600 students for each session, plus their parents.
UM System President Mun Choi last week celebrated that 5,578 first-year students had been accepted for the fall 2019, semester, up 17 percent from fall 2018. MU reported on May 1 that 5,460 students had paid their enrollment deposits, 913 more than the previous year.
"What this demonstrates to the state is that Mizzou is back," Choi told the UM Board of Curators last week. He said there's a more concerted focus on growing enrollment.
The first day includes small group talks based on their housing assignments, with times for questions and answers. The subjects include the resources that are available to students and some of the challenges they may face.
"If they have a problem, they're probably not the first student to encounter the problem," Rielley said.
Rielley said on the second day students meet with their academic advisors, establish class schedules and have a chance to view a sample room in the residence hall to which they will be staying.
Making sure students have the proper immunizations is part of Summer Welcome. So is a state-required civics exam.
"We're trying to get that taken care of here," Rielley said.
Students can pick up their laptop computers if they have purchased it on campus, he said. For those students and students who bring their own laptops from home, university information technology personnel can set them up so that they work with the campus network.
There's a "Professor's Perspective" talk in which professors talk about what it takes to be a successful student at MU.
Rielley said the students benefit from Summer Welcome.
"Students who attend Summer Welcome are much more inclined to be engaged" academically and socially, he said. Engaged students are more likely to graduate.
"You're kind of building your own support network," Rielley said.
Kenny Hennessey, 18, from St. Charles, was in the student center with his mom, Kristy Hennessey. Kenny said his brother went to MU.
"I kind of like the school," he said. "I've been here before."
Kenny is a business major. He said Summer Welcome involves a lot of group activities and explains ways for student to integrate into campus life.
"It offers a lot of information," he said. "You get to learn the ropes."
Kyle Holden, 18, a mechanical engineering major from Chicago, was at Summer Welcome with his parents, Byron and Deb Holden. Kyle said his friend's oldest brother went to MU. He's been to some football games here.
"I just really love the campus," Kyle said. "The community seems like a really welcoming place."
He said he was getting to know people from California, Illinois and Columbia.
Byron Holden said the university did a good job of exposing new students to the resources that were available to them.
"They have great communication leading up to this, too," Deb Holden said. "You know what to expect."