A sense of empowerment was in the air as the gates of Spelman College opened to welcome 582 new students on Aug. 15 for New Student Orientation. Only three months ago at Spelman’s 2009 commencement ceremony, Cornel West, Ph.D., urged graduates to be “free thinkers, to think critically against the grain.” The idea of becoming a “free-thinking woman,” an ongoing theme at Spelman College, ran through every NSO event, seven days of activities created by the Office of Student Engagement to prepare first-year students for their hectic college lifestyle, as well as help them understand Spelman’s commitment to academic excellence and the College’s history of producing Black women leaders.
Many NSO events focused on bringing students closer together through the bond of sisterhood. In Sister-to-Sister Dialogues, Student Orientation Leaders shared stories and life lessons with first-year students. SOL leader Ashley Jones felt a special connection with her first-year Spelman sisters, recalling the induction ceremony where new students are inducted into Spelman’s sisterhood.
“I cried. I didn’t want to leave. I felt like I just started here,” says Jones, a senior political science major. “It’s my senior year, and it just went by very fast. Seeing them being inducted into the sisterhood was very touching for me.”
Information sessions on residence life, meeting major department heads, learning the history of Spelman, and connecting with alumnae helped first-year students understand how they will navigate and benefit from their liberal arts education through the College’s rich tradition and connections.
Autumn McCullough, C’2012, a transfer student from Clark Atlanta University, had seen Spelman from outside the gates and says she wanted to come to Spelman, “to be around African-American women who knew what they wanted to do — to actually make a change in the community and the world,” she says. After hearing President Beverly Tatum’s welcome address at When and Where We Enter and meeting alumnae, McCullough says she knew Spelman was, “a very uplifting and inspirational institution.”
Ashley Golbert, a first-year political science major, was engaged in the NSO experience from the welcoming committee at the Spelman gate to the participation in the film and discussion event, “And Still I Rise,” and Project Pay It Forward, where students created gift bags to help the 2,500 homeless children of Atlanta. She was especially appreciative of the connection she made with Jones, her SOL.
“To know that there is someone here who I have never met before actually embrace me – especially living in a new city where you have no family—I actually felt loved,” says Golbert, who is still called by Jones daily. “It’s important that I can have a sense of belonging.” — Alexis Crews, C’2011