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From the Arch to Millennium Park

New students take the traditional walk on campus before getting a taste of Chicago

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September 17, 2013 | by Brendan Cosgrove
Video produced by Matt Paolelli

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s Class of 2017 and new transfer students had a jam-packed first full day of Wildcat Welcome Tuesday, Sept. 17, participating in the fifth annual “March Through the Arch,” posing for their class photo on Deering Meadow and making an afternoon pilgrimage to Millennium Park for a festive introduction to Chicago.

After spending the previous day moving into their residence halls, meeting classmates and making new friends, the 2,000-plus members of the freshman class and new transfer students joined in events both on and off campus designed to welcome them to the University and introduce them to the Northwestern and Chicago-area communities.

The day started with a giant ceremonial first step. Surrounded by parents, faculty, staff and other well-wishers, the purple-clad new students were led en masse by the Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) across Sheridan Road and through the Weber Arch, the iconic entrance to the University’s Evanston campus.

On Deering Meadow, the new students were met by University President Morton Schapiro, Associated Student Government (ASG) President Ani Ajith and New Student and Family Programs director Patricia Hilkert, who officially welcomed them to campus.

“I just hope you love it here,” Schapiro said. “It’s a wonderful community full of the greatest Midwestern values like civility, empathy and perseverance. Enjoy every minute of it! Go ‘Cats!“

“We like to take advantage of the fact that Northwestern is a sandbox,” Ajith said.  "It’s a lab. It’s an incubator for some of the most brilliant minds and ideas in the world. That’s why I feel like I belong in this community.”

After a class photo, new students said goodbye to their families and boarded buses to downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park and the first-ever “Purple Pride” event. With the skyline of the Second City as a backdrop, students spent the afternoon getting to know their peers, their University and their new community.

At Millennium Park, the Class of 2017 heard from inspirational speakers, including Northwestern alumni who told their audience just how important and special the University is to them.

“What you don't realize when you're at Northwestern is how many amazing people are with you right now,” said Mike McGee, a 2010 radio/TV/film and political science graduate, former ASG president and co-founder of The Starter League, a Chicago-based firm specializing in teaching Web development. “There are so many amazing people in this crowd that you don't know yet, that you'll have an opportunity to meet. You'll become best friends. Some of you guys are getting married. Let me freak you out right now. It's just going to happen.”

New students also toured the park’s many sights, taking photos in front of the famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture -- affectionately known as “The Bean” -- and the Crown Fountain, known for its mixing of video images with cascading water.

Later, the newest Wildcats were introduced to Northwestern’s many traditions surrounding athletics. Led by Burgie Howard, assistant vice president for student engagement, NUMB, the WildPride cheer squad and members of the Wildside student spirit group, the Class of 2017 learned the University’s fight song, “Go U Northwestern,” the Northwestern alma mater and many of the cheers and chants heard at athletic events.

Before heading back to Evanston, the day in Chicago concluded with a performance of a choreographed dance the new students had learned throughout the afternoon set to the hit song “Best Song Ever” by British pop group One Direction.

“’Purple Pride’ was pretty great,” Leah Downs, a freshman in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences from Atlanta, said on Twitter. “NU is absolutely amazing, and I definitely chose the right school.”

Wildcat Welcome activities continue through Sept. 23. The entire eight-day program is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of planning executed by the Office of New Student and Family Programs, part of Northwestern’s Division of Student Affairs. Classes begin Sept. 24.