‘GatorFest!’ ushers in new academic year with laughs

Students forming SFSU on the Cox Stadium stadium

Last year, students gathered inside Cox Stadium at San Francisco State University and posed for first-ever entering student class photo.

SF Sketchfest improv show planned as part of weeklong festivities celebrating new students

Starting college comes with mixed emotions. There’s the excitement of exploring a new place, forming new friendships and learning more about the world. But there can also be anxiety about the challenges ahead. GatorFest!, San Francisco State University’s weeklong celebration to welcome new students, was planned in part to ease this transition. And what better way to break the ice than with laughter?

New and returning students are invited to attend a free improv show at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, in McKenna Hall. Some seats have also been reserved for faculty and staff. The lineup of talent features a number of San Francisco State alums, including Emmy-nominated actress Janet Varney (B.A., ’97) and Cole Stratton (B.A., ’00), two of the founders of the annual comedy festival SF Sketchfest. Other comedians include John Michael Higgins (“Best in Show”), Jessica Makinson (“South Park”) and Oscar Nuñez (“The Office”).

“There’s no better way to feature our own alums who have gone on to have successful careers,” said SF State Interim Associate Director of Student Activities and Events Mia Reisweber, who helped organize GatorFest!. “[Varney and Stratton] came out of Creative Arts and requested to perform in McKenna Hall because that’s where they started.”

The comedy showcase is just one piece of GatorFest!, which officially kicks off Sunday, Aug. 18, when more than 3,600 freshmen move into their dorms. “There are so many programs and events that will bring people together from all corners of the University, whether they’re new, or returning or have been working here for 30 years,” Reisweber said. The University will also welcome more than 3,400 transfer students and nearly 1,000 graduate students.

Last year, the University changed the name of its student-centered fall semester kickoff to GatorFest! and added a host of new traditions, such as a class photo and a pinning ceremony featuring a uniquely designed SF State pin. Both of those will continue, while new events include Gator X, SF State’s first lecture series showcasing the city and faculty expertise.

New students can also attend an Oakland Athletics game on Aug. 21. The first 100 tickets are free for students and include food and drink vouchers. GatorFest! co-chair and First-Year Experience Manager Chris Trudell says this is a great way to introduce students to BART. It’s all part of getting students acclimated to the University and the Bay Area, Trudell adds.

According to Associate Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Danny Glassmann, Ph.D., the first six to eight weeks of a student’s college experience are critical because it sets the stage for their entire experience. “GatorFest! is about helping students transition to life at SF State,” he said. “If we can help them feel like they matter and belong here, that will support and sustain them throughout their time here.”

One piece of advice Resiweber said she’d offer new students is to be open minded about where they find connections on campus. “Your home on campus could be in an unexpected place. It could be in a professor or a staff member’s office. It could be in a coffee shop, or in the Library or hiking the Presidio,” she said. “It could be anywhere. As long as they’re open to that possibility, then they’re going to find their people and that support network.”

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

Students can also join the conversation on social media using #GatorFest2019 and by following SF State on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They can go one step further by participating in the University’s third 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 Gymnasium. Post it to Instagram using the hashtag #GatorFest2019. Photos will be re-posted on the SF State feed ― whichever photo racks up the most likes wins. The contest runs Aug. 19 through 30.