Campus News

First-year students kick off college careers at Sanford Stadium

Freshman Welcome 2015-Jere W. Morehead and Johnelle Simpson selfie-h. group
Student Government Association President Johnelle Simpson poses with UGA President Jere W. Morehead and first-year students as he takes a photo during Freshman Welcome.

UGA’s Class of 2019 has now completed its first week of classes. But on the eve of the first day of class, hundreds of first-year students took the opportunity to consider the journey ahead at the Freshman Welcome event held in Sanford Stadium.

“I welcome all of you to the University of Georgia,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said to the students in the stadium. “And I hope and expect it will be the best four years of your life.”

The Freshman Welcome, now in its fifth year, brings the first-year class together to master game-day traditions, hear words of advice from peers and administrators, and walk between the hedges for a photo op on the football field. The class forms a giant “power G” to serve as a class photo. The Freshman Welcome is organized by the UGA Student Alumni Association and the Student Government Association.

Before UGA faculty taught the first classes of the semester, Sanford Stadium announcer Brook Whitmire gave students a lesson in UGA cheers, with the help of cheerleaders and members of the Redcoat Marching Band. Whitmire walked students through game-day traditions-from the singing of UGA’s fight song “Hail to Georgia” to the fourth-quarter salute.

While the event was an opportunity to boost school spirit and offer a primer for game day rituals, it was also a chance for students to think about how to balance their coursework with all of the many opportunities available at UGA’s campus.

Morehead encouraged students to not just go to home football games, but to attend UGA sporting events year-round and to get involved with student groups and attend lectures and art events.

Head football coach Mark Richt gave the students a pep talk about being responsible members of the university community.

“The thing I’m asking you to think about is to respect each other and respect yourself,” Richt said. “Don’t put yourself in a situation that could end up really bad.”

He also challenged the males in the audience.

“Young men, we need to respect the young ladies on the campus,” he said.

Richt concluded with a message he gives his student-athletes about their degrees.

“Know that this degree is going to bless you for the rest of your life,” he said. “You’re a ‘dawg’ for life.”

Before the students took to the field to form a 70-yard-long G, they also got some encouragement from a fellow student Johnelle Simpson, the SGA president.

Simpson asked the audience to hold hands with their classmates. He reminded them that as challenging and unpredictable as the next four years would be, they could take comfort that they have the opportunity to see their peers again at Sanford Stadium when they graduate.

“You’re holding the hand of the members of class of 2019,” Simpson said. “Tomorrow you will embark on the greatest journey of your life.”