Hundreds of students kick off spring semester at WelcomeFest


Katelyn Squiers/Iowa State Daily

About 650 students attended WelcomeFest to kick off the spring semester Wednesday night in the Memorial Union. 

Katelyn Squiers

Iowa State University hosted its spring WelcomeFest Wednesday night in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. 

“WelcomeFest is a chance for local businesses and university departments to show students the services they have to offer, promote what it is they do and give away a lot of free swag,” said Kristine Heflin, associate director of the Memorial Union for Student Engagement.

There were approximately 50 vendors who participated in the event, which is roughly half the number of vendors who participated in last semester’s fall WelcomeFest. Though the university has hosted the fall event for several years, this is only the second time the event has taken place in the spring. 

“It just adds an extra opportunity, because we always have people asking how they can promote to students, and there’s not a lot of ways to do that, because we try to protect students a little bit from getting marketed to all the time,” Heflin said. “Also we know that there are some students who start during the spring semester.”

One of this year’s vendors was Community and Family Resources. They offer several programs that fight against substance abuse disorder and problem gambling, in addition to a variety of mental health services. 

“It’s really important for us to get the word out to college students, especially on different prevention issues, like binge drinking,” said Claudia Schmugge, a prevention specialist with Community and Family Resources. “Also, of course, mental health is extremely important for college students. 

WelcomeFest was valuable to many local businesses, because it allowed them to promote their services and products. However, it was also beneficial for many students.

“You get a lot of information about housing, and I’m looking for housing, which is why I decided to come,” said Aakriti Jain, a graduate student in computer science.

Others attended the event because vendors were offering a variety of free items, such as t-shirts, pens and food.

“I went to the one last semester, and it was great, because there were so many QR codes to scan to sign up for things,” said Olivia Miller, a freshman in environmental science. “I won a crockpot, and my friend won a gift card, so [we were] hoping to try our luck again this time.”

Haverkamp Properties, a leasing company located in Ames, was providing students with free succulents, which was a popular favorite for many attendees, including Miller.  

“We renovated our office a couple years ago, and there’s a ton of plants and succulents,” said Bailey Ireland, a lead leasing consultant at Haverkamp Properties. “We thought it’d be cute to be like ‘oh hey, here’s a plant, and then if you come to our office, you’ll also be surrounded by plants.’”

WelcomeFest is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about local businesses, but it is also a fun way for students to kick off the semester with lots of free swag. 

“I thought it was a great opportunity to see what there is around the area,” said Phillip Gorni, a sophomore aerospace engineering major. “There’s also a bunch of free stuff to get, and I mean, who doesn’t like to get free stuff?”