September 6, 2005
Source: Athabasca University:
Labour Day Monday started out cool and crisp, but the sun couldn't have been brighter and the sky couldn't have been bluer as cars began to line Augustana's front drive. The cars weren't just any cars - they were stacked to the rooftops with supplies - blankets, towels, clothes, bookshelves, cherished mementos and miscellaneous gear deemed necessary for survival in first year residence. And they were manned by nervous parents and a son or a daughter that they would be leaving behind for first year of university.
As the cars approached they were greeted by the O-team, Augustana's notorious Orientation team, made up of about a hundred second and third year students and select courageous staff, cheering newcomers down the lane and directing them towards the first year residence building. Decked out in their Orange T-shirts, boas, and crazy hats, members of the O-team approached each car with cheers, and instructions to `open the doors.' Before bewildered parents and freshman could say `where's the dorm?' their cars were stripped of their contents and bewildered student and parent were escorted to their rooms - where everything was unpacked for them.
"What a wonderful way to be greeted," said one parent. "It's just so welcoming. I think they unloaded us and had everything moved into the room in under five minutes," remarked another amazed father. All day the O-team's cheers were heard as car after car, freshman after freshman was greeted, helped to unpack and introduced to roommates, and students on campus. Parents were left by their children - no longer children really - to wander the campus. Many drifted into Augustana's Faith and Life student lounge for coffee and cookies where they could take a load off and reflect on a milestone day. Families had driven in from east, west, north and south - Golden B.C., Dawson Creek, St. Paul, Lacombe, just to name a few. Many stayed for the Dean's welcome and the 4:00 welcoming service.
Acting Dean Roger Epp welcomed parents and new students to the campus. He noted that not many campus' strip newcomer's cars on arrival, but he assured parents that their children had come to "a good place." "Augustana is a place that cares about students, teaching and the ideals of a liberal arts education. We promise a life changing education, where students are more than spectators, where they are more than a statistic and where they are encouraged to think for themselves."
Epp noted that there would be changes to come - new programs, new buildings, as a result of the merger with the University of Alberta, but that those changes would not steer Augustana from its principal focus - its students.
In the welcoming service, Reverend Craig Wentland remarked upon the U of A's motto - whatsoever things are true, and reminded attendees of its origin in Philippians. At Augustana certain things are true. The O-team is just one of those things. They are a significant example of an institution that commits wholeheartedly to the role that community plays in education. The O team is Augustana's way of beginning the first step in a larger truth - the adventure of education that begins each autumn, each Labour Day Monday on the prairies at the U of A's Augustana campus in Camrose.