Although the Big Red Welcome events don’t start until students move in during August, the executive team and subcommittees sit down in September of the year before to start making plans for the next year’s festivities. That means for the last 11 months, faculty have been working hard to make the 2021 Big Red Welcome an unforgettable experience for University of Nebraska-Lincoln freshmen and returning students.

Every year, an executive board made up of seven members, including Jenni Brost, director of New Student Enrollment, and Veronica Riepe, director of Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement, gather to plan the UNL Big Red Welcome. 

“By starting so early, it gives us some time to say ‘what are some of the things we need to think about,’ and one of those things that there’s a challenge with... is the bus system,” Riepe said. 

According to Riepe, the regular schedule for the buses that run between City Campus and East Campus doesn’t start until the first Monday of classes. Thus, the New Student Enrollment office had to talk with parking services and ask if small changes could be made so there would be transportation to and from events for students on East Campus. 

“You don’t make those decisions in July,” Riepe said. “You have those conversations in the fall.”

Due to COVID-19 and the restrictions that came with it, last year’s Big Red Welcome events were incredibly limited. 

“Last year was hard because we just couldn’t do a lot of our signature events that had a lot of crowds,” Brost said.

Some of these events included the Tunnel Walk and Street Festival. They also had to limit the size of the activities, move several events outside and hold a lot of Zoom festivities instead of in-person events, which took away from the community building aspect of Big Red Welcome, according to Brost. 

When it came to planning events for this year’s Big Red Welcome after such a restricted and limited year, the executive team and subcommittees knew they wanted it to be bigger and better than ever. Not only did they bring back their signature events such as the Street Festival and Tunnel Walk, but they also decided to implement some new activities into the schedule. 

With two more move-in days available than in past years, the team wanted students arriving on campus earlier in the week to have fun events they could attend for free. The way they did this was by partnering with a few local businesses, such as Prehistoric Putt, Escape Lincoln and Lincoln Laser Tag & Arcade. They allowed students to sign up for times to participate in activities at these locations and more free of charge on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17. They also provided shuttles to transport students to these locations free of charge as well. 

“One of our main goals is to make sure that we have a diversity of options for students…so we make sure we have a breadth of experiences that we put on the calendar so students can find something that suits them,” Brost said.

Although Brost said it’s a lot of work to plan for Big Red Welcome each year, she expressed how rewarding it is to see that work pay off. The most rewarding part for Brost is seeing students interact and build community.

“You just see students getting to know one another, talking to each other and starting to meet friends and acquaintances,” Brost said. “That’s what fills my bucket.” 

Riepe also expressed how rewarding it is to see her work planning for Big Red Welcome pay off. 

“You do all this work and then you get to stand back and watch it run, watch them show up,” Riepe said. “Somebody told me a long time ago in my career that what we do in student involvement is make memories, and I think that’s the epitome of Big Red Welcome.”