COLUMBIA — Debi and Tom Kupferer live in Columbia within minutes of MU, but they got a new taste of campus when they attended Summer Welcome on July 2 with their oldest child, Kelsey, who will be a freshman this fall.
The Kupferers arrived in time for the tour but not in time for the free coffee — and Debi really wanted her coffee. Although her husband had attended MU, Debi had only been on campus for a few football games and didn’t know where she could grab a quick caffeine fix. She was pleasantly surprised by the personalized hospitality of the Summer Welcome leaders.
- MU's 2010 incoming freshman class is expected to exceed last year's 5,589.
- Summer Welcome operated from June 8 through July 8.
- 5,600 freshmen attended Summer Welcome.
- 9,200 parents and other guests attended the program.
- The program fee is included in the $150 new student enrollment fee that every MU student must pay.
- Parents or other guests paid $18 to participate.
- Each two-day session involved about 270 students and 620-700 people in all.
- 36 Summer Welcome leaders led tours and small groups.
- Summer Welcome programs have existed at MU for the past four decades.
- Another 250 to 300 students are expected to attend an orientation in August, which is similar to Summer Welcome but a different program.
David Rielley, director of New Student Programs
“They walk you from place to place," she said. "They even walked me to get a cup of coffee.”
The Kupferers were among the estimated 9,200 parents and guests and 5,600 soon-to-be freshmen who attended this year's Summer Welcome, an orientation, advising and registration program for new students and their parents. Seventeen families interviewed by the Missourian during the final week of the program, which ended Thursday, felt pretty satisfied with the amount of information they got and topics covered, including campus safety, financial aid and ordering textbooks.
"I remember when I was in school here, if you didn't ask, nobody told you," said Scott Rohrs of Columbia, a 1993 graduate who was visiting with daughter Sara and wife, Gretchen, who he met at MU in choir class. Rohrs was talking about work opportunities on campus, which Summer Welcome attempts to address.
Gretchen Rohrs, who attended a Summer Welcome before she started college in 1987, said she noticed a greater focus on preventing violence and encouraging safety for women.
"We've kind of been bombarded with information on how to stay safe on campus," she said.
"Which isn't a bad thing," Sara Rohrs added.
"No, no, and they're much more open about 'call these people if you need a ride, if you're not able to drive your own car,'" her mother said. "That sort of thing was just starting when I was on campus."
As director of New Student Programs, David Rielley oversees Summer Welcome and stressed that the program, which has been around for about 40 years, is much more than tours.
“Our goal is for students and their parents to learn about campus and what the resources are that are available to them,” Rielley said.
All the walking to and from tours, information sessions, dorms and the University Bookstore left some parents short of breath — and wishing for golf carts.
Starting in June, the parents and their children visited campus for two-day sessions; the July 2 session was a one-day event.
Courtney Doll, who plans to major in journalism, flew from Houston to St. Louis with her parents, Paul and Dayna Doll, and then rented a car for the two-hour ride to Columbia.
They thought the trip was worth it. Courtney Doll said she appreciated the opportunity the small group meetings gave her to meet other students. She liked having people she knew to sit with in large group sessions and looks forward to seeing many of them again in the fall.
“We’re going to Facebook each other as soon as we get home,” she said.
Her father said he was grateful for instruction on how to manage the accounts and bills online.
“It was very informative for the parents,” Paul Doll said.
Tiffany Reid and her mother came from Kansas City. Reid plans to major in biology with the hope of becoming an anesthesiologist.
Their favorite part of Summer Welcome was a presentation called "Professor’s Perspective" in which a professor gives parents and students his or her take on college life. The speaker on the day the Reids visited was Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate students, who talked about studying, getting to class on time and the history of MU.
“There was not a dull moment during his presentation," Jennifer Reid, Tiffany's mother, said. "It’s difficult to talk about history and keep everyone interested."
“I liked how every now and again, he’d throw in a little joke about KU,” Tiffany Reid said.
At points throughout the first day of each session, students and parents were separated and then subdivided into smaller groups. Students were given a chance to talk with one another and ask their Summer Welcome leader questions about MU.
“We danced, and we sang, and we hooted and hollered and learned peoples’ names — most things people would never do in public,” said Kevin Botkin, who will come from Clinton, Iowa, to study vocal performance and music education.
Botkin was not put off by what seems like a lot of construction on campus this summer.
“It’s a little disruptive getting around, but it definitely shows that progress is being made," he said. "It’s definitely better than seeing a bunch of rotting buildings.”
MU schedules construction during the summer while fewer people are on campus. Most road construction is scheduled to be completed by freshmen move-in day on Aug. 18, according to a previous Missourian story.
Tim Collins, a father from Normal, Ill., had both praise and criticism for the Summer Welcome program. Although he found it well-organized and thorough, he was not convinced that the emphasis on school spirit was necessary.
“I think the rah-rah is fine, fun, but as far as my son, I want to see him get a job,” Collins said.
He said he wants his son, Ben, to know that fun is a bonus of college, not its focus.
“You’re here so that you don’t end up in my basement when you’re done,” Collins said he often tells his son when discussing college.
Collins said that during the information sessions on billing, he felt there was an assumption that the parents would be paying for the student’s education. He plans to help his son but will not pay the majority of the expense. He said he thinks students who pay for their own educations are more likely to act responsibly during college and find a job after graduating because it’s their money at stake.
“I could pay for it, but I don’t want to — for his benefit,” Collins said.
Jackie Turner accompanied her son, Jason, to Summer Welcome. She plans to go back to school herself after Jason starts at MU in the fall. With her two older children already out of the house, Turner wants to get her bachelor’s degree in health care management through the Program for Adult College Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Turner said she was impressed with the Summer Welcome leaders, especially when they gave out their contact information in case the parents or students had any questions or problems later. Leaders are current MU students who undergo a 17-day training course before the program starts.
After Turner's lunch at the dining hall Plaza 900, she did have some trouble finding the University Bookstore — because of the construction.
“I think right after lunch, they could have people out directing people where to go like they did in the morning,” Turner suggested.
Ki Ha Chang and his father flew in from Michigan the night before their Summer Welcome session. Although disappointed that he missed an activities fair in Memorial Union because it conflicted with his advising session, Chang said the advising appointment, during which he picked out his classes, was the most helpful part of Summer Welcome.
“Getting your schedule done, it’s kind of like the ‘you’re in college’ moment,” said Chang, who decided on MU because he wants to major in radio/TV journalism.
The visit was Chang’s first time in Missouri.
“I think the people here are a lot nicer than in Michigan," he said. "In Michigan, everyone’s a little crabby.”