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New students connect virtually for Welcome Weekend events

About 140 admitted students participated in the School of Social Work’s Virtual Welcome Weekend sessions during the second week of April, giving MSW candidates the opportunity to learn more about the School’s curriculum and to meet faculty, staff and current students. Although newly accepted students traditionally visit the UNC campus during the spring, the School shifted plans and scheduled three virtual events following the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students participating in this year’s sessions represented 19 states from across the nation and Israel, said Assistant Dean of Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid Sharon Holmes Thomas.

Each session included an overview of coursework, field education and life at UNC-Chapel Hill. Admitted students also had the chance to hear from and ask questions of senior administrators, including Dean Gary Bowen, Senior Associate Dean for MSW Education Lisa de Saxe Zerden, and Associate Dean for Student Affairs Sarah Naylor.

“I am very pleased with how the events went,” Thomas said. “I’ve already heard from a number of the admitted students who participated that they appreciated the opportunity to hear from program and university administrators, and to participate in small group discussions with current students in their cohort.”

As a self-proclaimed extrovert, incoming student Emily Gelblum said she was initially disappointed to miss out on the tradition of attending Welcome Weekend events on campus and meeting members of her cohort face to face. Gelblum, a graduate of Guilford College and a Chapel Hill resident, will enroll in the School’s 3-year full-time program in Chapel Hill in the fall. However, after participating in one of the virtual sessions, Gelblum said she was especially pleased with the breakout portion of the event, which enabled students to connect in small groups and to engage with program directors.

In addition, Gelblum and other incoming students have recently begun holding weekly Zoom calls so that she and her peers can get to know each other more informally, she added.

“It’s a time to show up, build community, get to know each other, and support one another as we begin this journey,” she said.

Because the virtual sessions were so successful this year, the School will plan to offer one to two virtual Welcome Weekend events each spring, Thomas added.