Despite an 8:30 a.m. start time and the blisteringly hot weather, the Office of Admission’s annual WesFest celebration welcomed over 100 admitted students and their families to campus on Friday, April 14, and an additional 100 on Monday, April 17. From masterclasses in religion and public health to an a capella showcase, a Homerathon, and a tiny terrarium building, WesFest offered a variety of attractions to high school seniors from near and far to give them a real experience of what studying and living at the University might be like.
Both days of WesFest began with a welcome address from Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Gonzalez ’96 and President Michael Roth ’78 in the Memorial Chapel. Roth made his way up the chapel aisles, reiterating the glory of small selective liberal arts schools and sharing his motto with the audience: students should discover what they love to do, get better at it, and learn to share it with others.
Guests then broke off to attend events of their choice. The Student-to-Student and Hot Topics for Parents panels held discussions ranging from student activism on campus to the bathroom situation in student dorms, as burning questions from both groups were addressed in a more confidential setting, away from familial judgment. Students and parents also attended open houses for different areas of study, including in the College of Letters, Theater Department, Center of Jewish Studies, and Shapiro Writing Center.
Guests not only received information about the undergraduate experience at the University but also details on what life after graduation might look like. Executive Director of the Gordon Career Center Dr. Sharon Castonguay offered a lecture entitled “Teacher, Banker, Coder, Artist: Learning Career Management in a Liberal Arts Environment” to discuss the benefits of a liberal arts education, and Health Professions Advisor Mildred Rodriguez conducted an information session on pre-health advising.
Aside from the academic events, WesFest also incorporated various campus organizations’ events into the schedule.
WesThrift, the University’s free on-campus thrift store sponsored by the College of Environment, opened for extended hours during WesFest. Prefrosh and their parents exited the College of the Environment building with both new clothes and new friends.
“I worked at WesThrift during its extended hours on Friday during WesFest, and it was a great turnout,” Vivian Redmond ’24 wrote in an email to The Argus. “It was great to see new friendships forming over a love of clothes, sustainability, and Wesleyan…. We even had a pre-frosh donate a few bags of clothes!”
Another highlight was “(Barely) Controlled Substances,” a must-see for any science enthusiast, conducted by the student forum “The Art and Science of Chemical Demonstrations” (CHEM 420). With forum participants, class leaders Anne Kiely ’24 and Maya Milrod ’24 ran the demonstration.
“Last year, we performed a show on two different days since WesFest was spread out over three Fridays,” Kiely said. “This year, we had just one show, and the crowd was bigger than it was at either show last year, so I think it was more fun and high-energy. Our demonstrations included igniting bubbles filled with hydrogen and oxygen gas, burning a gummy bear with potassium chlorate, combining chemicals that glow when they react, and making ice cream with liquid nitrogen.”
Various showcases displayed the music and arts culture on campus. The student band showcase attracted clusters of current and prospective students to Foss Hill after a long day of Wesleyan touring and info sessions. The crowd sang along to covers and original songs by student bands, and received a sneak peek of the performers at The Battle of the Bands occurring later that day.
The comedy showcase featured the best of improvisational theater (improv) at Wesleyan.
“We actually weren’t expecting anyone to show up because usually the WesFest events that take place later in the evening don’t get much attendance,” Becca Baron ’23 wrote in an email to The Argus. “To our surprise, almost every seat in the Woodhead lounge (granted, not that many seats) was filled! The crowd was a bit quiet and took a while to get loosened up but ended up really enjoying the show. We stuck around afterwards to answer questions about comedy/improv at Wesleyan and had some nice conversations with incoming students [and] students deciding between Wesleyan and a few other schools.”
Though it was not included in the official schedule, Undies in Olin, which packed Olin Library with students in only their underwear, was another event where current students demonstrated how true school spirit manifests at the University.
“Undies in Olin was great this year,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said. “I made sure to wear my favorite underwear. But I’m not going to say what pattern it was because then everyone will know who said this.”
Another student—who also wished to remain anonymous—expressed similar excitement about the scandalous event.
“We tried to scare the parents,” the second student said. “But I don’t think they were very impressed…do they see half-naked people every Friday?”
As an introduction into spiritual life on campus, the Wesleyan Jewish Community (WJC) held two WesFest events to welcome prospective students to Jewish life on campus.
“On Friday we welcomed 25 prospective students and families to the WJC for musical Shabbat services and a home cooked dinner,” WJC Board Member Danielle Garten ’24 wrote in an email to The Argus. “The families really enjoyed talking to current students and getting to see the Bayit, and three pre-frosh even helped us clean up!”
Garten also spoke about the “Schmooze with the Jews” event held on Monday evening.
“On Monday, we hosted a panel-style ‘Schmooze with the Jews’ event where board members shared what it was like to be Jewish on campus,” Garten wrote. “It was great getting to meet the admitted students, and we are looking forward to welcoming them to the WJC in September!”
In addition, the Wesleyan Christian Fellowship hosted a Bible Study session and the Muslim Student Association held a Jumuah Service to welcome students of any faith to religious life on campus.
As the second presentation of WesFest after the pandemic, it is fair to say that this year’s events turned out to be a success. With the projected arrival of 785 new first-year students next year, WesFest was an incredible way of demonstrating the best of the University and extending a warm welcome to those who wish to call Wesleyan home.
Anne Kiely is a Head Copy Editor for The Argus.
Carolyn Neugarten can be reached at email@example.com.