When Adrian Autry ’94 led the Syracuse University men’s basketball team into action against the University of New Hampshire to open the 2023-24 season, there were many familiar faces in the stands inside the JMA Wireless Dome cheering on the…
Connecting the Newest Members of the Orange Family to the University Through Syracuse Welcome With Carrie Grogan Abbott G’03
The Syracuse University family is about to expand, as more than 4,000 first-year students will soon move into their residence halls during Syracuse Welcome, the University’s annual new student orientation program, running Aug. 24-27.
Syracuse Welcome represents the first steps in a student’s Syracuse journey, an odyssey that can feel overwhelming to students and family members alike, with changes to many facets of their daily life.
Luckily for everyone participating, as soon as last year’s orientation program concluded, Carrie Grogan Abbott G’03 and her team started preparing for this year’s welcome events. Abbott serves as the director of new student programs, and this will be her 20th consecutive year helping with Syracuse Welcome.
“It’s a joy and an honor to be a partner in the student’s experience when they arrive on campus. To be there for the new students, for their families and their supporters is really a magical moment,” Abbott says. “My team and all of the University colleagues who volunteer for move-in do such a wonderful job greeting these students and truly welcoming them to the Orange family. It’s remarkable how the campus comes together to welcome and support our new students.”
At some point during the summer, many of these students attended a new student send-off in their hometown, a unique opportunity to meet fellow incoming students and network with both current students and recent alumni from their area.
Once they arrive in Syracuse, the weeklong orientation is filled with programs designed to make new students and their family members feel at home through engaging academic and social events, including New Student Convocation, a key component of Syracuse Welcome. The end goal? Helping students feel a sense of belonging to the Syracuse University community from their first day on campus.
On this “’Cuse Conversation,” Abbott shares why Syracuse Welcome is the perfect way to introduce new students to campus, reflects on the pivotal role the Goon Squad plays during move-in and offers up advice to ensure the earliest days on campus run smoothly.
01What is it about Syracuse Welcome that sets the University apart from its peers?
We always hear from families that the logistics behind Syracuse Welcome are the best. We take pride in the way we organize the move-in process. But for me, what makes us stand out is the introduction to Orange pride—all the things that Syracuse University has to offer while instilling that Orange spirit as soon as they get here.
The other thing that sets us apart is the way our program is very intentionally scaffolded. When students arrive, our goal is to welcome them to the University as a whole. For our residential students, we welcome them to the residence halls where they will be living. That’s the University welcome. After that, we want students to feel connected to their schools and colleges, so they get to spend the next couple of days participating in school or college programming.
Then we have our huge welcome program in the City of Syracuse that introduces students to our city and all the exciting things it has to offer. There’s this intentional rollout of the experiences students will have when they come to campus, so when they start the first day of classes, they have been connected to the various layers that make up Syracuse University.
02Every year since 1944, an awesome, passionate and enthusiastic group of student leaders, the Goon Squad, has helped during Syracuse Welcome. How important is the role the Goon Squad plays during move-in?
We are celebrating the 79th year of this tradition of returning students welcoming our new students to the Orange family. It’s pretty incredible and I feel honored that our office is the caretaker of this important University tradition. This year, we have over 650 students registered to be part of the Goon Squad, and most of them are involved in a student organization or serve as a peer mentor.
The students who are welcoming our new students are connected, they’re involved and they’re a great resource for students. When our new students and families arrive, we have this huge group of returning students to welcome them to Syracuse University. It really helps deliver a standout welcome experience.
03What are some keys to a successful move-in experience?
Coming on the date and time that you’ve been assigned is key because move-in is a well-oiled machine. The reason we organize people in days and times by residence hall is so we can manage the flow of traffic and so our Goon Squad students can help you move in efficiently. Patience is key, because in the society we live in, we’re not really used to waiting in lines anymore. Families can wait for a little bit as the process runs, but we encourage them to make the most of that time before drop-off. It’s a great time to talk with your student, bond and be together as a family before move-in begins.
In terms of packing, less is more. Instagram and other social media outlets like TikTok have given students pressure to have a very fancy residence hall room, and that pressure can lead to anxiety about getting your room set up. I encourage people to pack light and not stress about all the fancy room decor because you can always add to that once you get settled into the room and have a feel for what you may need.
The key things to bring are bedding and towels, shower shoes and a shower caddy, and some storage options. Syracuse is known for its chilly weather, so sometimes students will bring clothes to last through the fall, maybe until you need a fleece or sweaters, and then bring your winter clothes, boots and parkas later on.
Having a fan is helpful, especially for the beginning of the year because our residence hall spaces aren’t air-conditioned. Also bring things that make you feel a piece of your home, maybe some family photos or photos of your close friends.
04New Student Convocation serves as the official “welcome-to-Syracuse” moment inside the JMA Wireless Dome. Why is New Student Convocation a highlight of the week?
New Student Convocation is indeed a special tradition. It’s a formal academic ceremony, and it’s the bookend to commencement. Students and their families won’t be in that space together in the same way until they graduate. After Convocation, we have a dinner on the Dome turf, a unique chance for students and their families to be on the field and experience that, together. It’s truly a special moment and a unique aspect of Syracuse Welcome.
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.