1743 Days program asks freshmen: “Who will you be?”
EDITOR IN CHIEF
From silent disco to study abroad panels, the class of 2020 had a wealth of programming options during move-in weekend — far more than what had been offered in previous years. One new feature, however, stands out among the activities offered during the 1743 Welcome Days — “We Are Blue Hens.”
Unlike the majority of the programs, “We Are Blue Hens” serves not only to build camaraderie and provide freshman students with alcohol and drug-free events to attend, but to educate them about how to be conscious members of the Blue Hen community. The program, which is presented as a skit by former New Student Orientation (NSO) leaders and student volunteers from Student Wellness and Health Promotion, covers topics ranging from stress to hate speech and cultural appropriation.
“What does it mean to be a Blue Hen?” student performers asked. “What does it mean to join this community of scholars, researchers, musicians, student athletes, writers, creators, leaders and learners?”
This year, approximately 2500 students, or 62 percent of the freshman class, attended one of the skit’s three sessions, said NSO Director Heather Maginnis.
“The 1743 Welcome Days is kind of an extended orientation for the university,” Maginnis said. “But we felt that something was missing from the program — an opportunity to think about some of the things [freshmen] might be faced with in college related to choices around alcohol, classes, making friends, getting involved and just what it means to be a Blue Hen overall.”
This is the third year of “We Are Blue Hens” performances, and marks the highest attendance numbers since the skit began. An outside facilitator, Carrie Zimmerman, wrote the majority of the script, but it was created with student input, Maginnis said. NSO ensures the language and topics of the skit remain relevant for students by updating it each year.
The end of the script discusses things happening at college campuses across the country — this year’s script mentioned the racist chants of fraternity members at University of Oklahoma and transphobic vandalism in gender neutral bathrooms at a university in Texas — and this is one of the elements that continuously receives updates from year to year.
While most students from her building attended, many didn’t take the skit seriously initially, said freshman Marissa Nardella. However, there was a point when the presenters opened up to the audience and it wasn’t clear if they were speaking from their own experiences or still going off a script.
The audience members started to pay attention after that moment, where, even if they weren’t necessarily speaking about their own experiences, presenters were “baring their souls,” Nardella said.
“I also didn’t realize the diversity of experiences at UD — just looking at people, you can’t tell,” she said. “I think it definitely opened other people’s eyes to what people are struggling with. It made them a little more observant, and a little more curious.”