Building Connections? “It Begins with A”


Abdul-Salam Zakaria

Gus welcoming future Viking at the “It Begins with A” event on April 15, 2022.

Allie Rial

Spring brings lots of prospective students to Augustana’s campus. It’s the season of new beginnings as high school seniors make their final decisions on where they want to be in the fall.

Augustana celebrates this time for students with “It Begins with A.” This event will take place on April 15 and it brings together current students and prospective ones; both committed and still considering. It’s an opportunity for the visiting students to experience Augie in a way they haven’t before.

Kassidy Belcher, an admissions counselor, is an Augustana alum who attended this event herself. She remembers how the event made her feel comfortable on campus. Belcher is excited to participate in planning it this year and to know that it has continued being an important event.

“‘It Begins with A’ is a tradition at Augustana,” Belcher said. “We invite students that have either been admitted or deposited already to really come and connect with campus and with each other.”

The opportunity for incoming students to interact with each other and the campus as a whole is great for starting to create a true feeling of community. That connection also comes from current students working hard to welcome them.

First-Year Adi Walker works in admissions and helped plan the event. Walker is one of the current students helping to welcome the new students, and even though she is in training, she was still able to contribute to the finished product.

“I’m part of the leadership team for next year, and I’m shadowing under Gwen [Flannery], who is the visit date coordinator for the leadership team right now,” Walker said. “This is the first event that I’m doing mostly on my own, with her supervision. This is the first thing that I’ve been able to play a major role in.”

The admissions department is one of the main reasons the event is successful. It takes a significant effort to put together something that not only welcomes students, but makes it a carefree environment for them so that they can feel at home.

“It definitely is a lot of moving parts because we want it to be a fun day, not a stressful day and to make it so [the prospective students and their families] don’t have to worry about anything besides having fun and enjoying the day when they’re on campus,” Belcher said.

Making the new students and their families feel at home is an important part of this event in addition to building connections with new peers and their families. While not all the incoming students present will definitely attend Augustana, it gives them the opportunity to find out what it’s all about.

New class of 2027 and their families attending the celebration of our future Vikings at the “It Begins with A” event on April 15, 2022. (Abdul-Salam Zakaria)

Ringing the gong is only one of the fun aspects of this event, and it celebrates each student’s commitment. While there are a lot of admissions events throughout the year, this one stands out.

“Instead of just having lunch and a tour, you get a student panel that you can talk to and a lot of one on one time with your peers,” Walker said.

The difference between a regular visit day and “It Begins with A” lies in the opportunities provided to the attendees. Instead of being on a tour with people who may or may not attend Augustana, they are among those who are seriously considering it, if they haven’t committed already.

The benefit to this event is that it’s likely the new students are interacting with their future peers. Friendships can begin before their senior year of high school is even over, which helps create an easier transition.

“It’s really celebrating us and the students and the Quad Cities, which is something that I think other visiting events do to an extent, but that’s really the central goal of ‘It Begins with A,’” Belcher said.

To gather a bigger picture about what going to school at Augustana means, current students, faculty, and representation from local businesses are all there to promote the college and help to solidify any doubts for those who are still unsure.

Student involvement creates the first impression during this event, with volunteers forming a welcome crew lining 7th Avenue. Belcher believes that current students being involved starts the day off right and sets the tone for the new students. 

“I think it’s doing something a little different that they wouldn’t otherwise do on a Saturday morning but also just doing something a little bit fun while also helping bring in the next class to Augustana,” Belcher said.

This volunteer opportunity is where student groups can be represented or friends can just choose to cheer together. The result is incoming individuals greeted enthusiastically, and this makes them feel important and valued on Augustana’s campus.

“The biggest takeaway for the students is ‘yes, I have made the right decision’ or ‘this is the right decision, I’m going to meet my very best friends here as well, and I’m going to feel really comfortable here,’” Belcher said. “For the parents, it’s ‘I’m going to feel comfortable leaving my kid here.’”

“It Begins with A” is for both the parents and the students, as both can interact with other families of the class of 2027. All the hard work that goes into organizing this event creates a safe environment for individuals to break the ice. 

Through involvement from current Augie students, the admissions department and faculty, “It Begins with A” continues to be an event that the planners and participants look forward to. It builds connections in a way that other admissions events do not, and it gives students a head start on feeling like they are a true part of the campus community.

“We want to show them that we could be a really good fit for them, and that they’re going to feel comfortable to make mistakes and fall and grow and know that they’re going to have their peers and support system around them to still pick them back up and lead them on the path to success,” Belcher said.