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UW-Whitewater freshman learn traditions, start a new one

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Kayla Bunge
August 29, 2008
— Jaime Gailey of Milton painted a small section of Warhawk Drive purple, leaving her mark on the UW-Whitewater campus like no freshman has before.

The painting was the culmination of the “R U Purple?” event Thursday night, an event designed to introduce freshmen to what it means to be a UW-Whitewater Warhawk.


The freshmen burst through the entrance to Perkins Stadium, running through a human pathway that stretched across the field. They slapped hands with faculty, staff and students to blaring music and rousing cheers.


One girl did a back handspring before climbing the stairs into the stands. One boy sported white paint on his chest and purple on his back. Another girl spun around in her wheelchair before high-fiving Willy Warhawk.


Gailey had no clue her freshman orientation would consist of such fanfare.


“No, not at all,” she said, shaking her head.


That’s because the university kept the event top secret, said Kim Moistner-Bartlett, assistant dean of student life and the First Year Experience program.


“All they know is it’s a new tradition, and it starts with them, but they don’t know anything else,” she said before the activities began.


The event is part of the university’s new approach to freshman orientation, dubbed “Club U-Dub-Dub.” The program focuses on creating connections, something previous freshman classes lacked, said Kim Simes of the First Year Experience program.


“Our students don’t necessarily have a lot of traditions…” she said. “We wanted to create an experience that still gives them some of the nuts and bolts … but also gives them an experience they’re never going to forget and right away build that allegiance and pride with being a Warhawk.”


UW-Whitewater’s previous freshman orientation program, Warhawk Welcome, provided students with a lot of information when they registered for classes in the summer. But the new program provides students with little bits information from the time they register for classes in the summer to the time they move into the dorms.


“Now the philosophy is to give them the most information when it’s the most needed,” Moistner-Bartlett said.


The First Year Experience staff realized they needed to start with pride.


“Our program, our goals are all about helping students feel like they have a connection here at UW-Whitewater and ultimately that this is home to them,” Simes said.


Moistner-Bartlett said traditions—from something as simple as the firing of the cannon when a touchdown is scored to something as involved as painting Warhawk Drive purple—are important to college students.


Without traditions, she said, “they might not feel like they fit in here.”


After entering Perkins Stadium in grand fashion for the “R U Purple” event, the freshmen were told to jingle their keys at the first kickoff of football games, and they also learned the words to the fight song and how to do the Warhawk Strut.


“I’ve never heard of any other campus doing something like this,” said Allison Strakusek of Gurnee, Ill.


The energy was palatable as the freshmen chanted “U-Dub-Dub” under the white-hot lights of the stadium.


“This is pretty awesome,” said Dan Lindsay of Whitewater.



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