‘GatorFest’ celebrates incoming students at SF State

A female and male student try to knock each other off blocks using foam batons.

Students spar during one of San Francisco State’s Welcome Days events in 2017.

More than a month of activities planned to get students pumped for the new academic year

Starting college comes with a lot of firsts. For most freshmen, it’s the first time living away from family and among peers. And some students are the first in their family to attend college, so everything may feel unprecedented. To help the 4,133 incoming freshmen acclimate to their new community, San Francisco State University has planned GatorFest, a revamped and renamed celebration to welcome students to their new home through a month-long roster of events. The University also welcomes 2,986 enrolled transfer students and 1,002 enrolled graduate students.

The most critical days for new students are during the first six to eight weeks, says Chris Trudell, SF State first-year experience manager, who helped spearhead GatorFest. “The first few days are really a festival to welcome students and then we’ll be planning workshops, academic and developmental programs and social events throughout the first two months of the semester,” he said. 

Research has shown that within the first six weeks at an institution students make up their minds about whether they plan to continue at that school. That’s why the University has put a lot of emphasis on academic preparation, says SF State Assistant Dean of Students Brian Stuart.

“The Undergraduate Advising Center increased the number of advisors and developmental staff who are available to new students,” Stuart said. “They are planning to work with students to ensure they’re starting out on the right foot academically. We’re making a concerted effort to improve our graduation rates, and ensuring our freshmen class is well prepared is paramount.”

The expanded student-centered festival (known as “Welcome Days” in past years) officially kicks off Friday, Aug. 24, when luggage-toting freshmen move into on-campus housing. When they check into their dorms, they’ll receive a GatorFest T-shirt and information on the weekend’s activities. Weekend festivities include dinners for students and their families, a game night, a karaoke party, workshops to prepare students for classes and a first-ever “Rec the Night” event, which will showcase Campus Recreation programming and the Mashouf Wellness Center.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, students will head to a welcome address and convocation in Cox Stadium followed by SF State’s first-ever pinning ceremony; a class photo of all entering students will commemorate the event. On Sunday, Aug. 26, regional receptions are planned for students from different parts of California and out of state.

“We have a large population of students coming from Southern California, and there are unique transitional factors those students face in comparison to Bay Area locals,” said Trudell. “There’s a different culture here, so hopefully we’ll give students an opportunity to network with upper division students and faculty from Southern California so they can talk about some of those differences.”

The University is also planning off-campus events so students get to know the city, Stuart adds. “Part of transitioning to SF State is moving to San Francisco. We’re trying to orient students to city life with some outdoor events at the beach and other activities,” he said.

New students can download the Gator Guides app for a schedule of events.

Students can also join the conversation on social media using #GatorFest2018 and follow SF State on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. They can go one step further by participating in the University’s second annual Instagram contest for a chance to win cool Gator gear. How to enter: Snap a selfie next to the bronze Gator statue in front of the Gym. Post it to Instagram using the hashtag #GatorFest2018. Photos will be re-posted on the SF State feed, and the photo that racks up the most likes wins. The contest runs Aug. 24 through 31.