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Welcome Week, Back to the Bricks Herald Mississippi College Students’ Return to Clinton Campus

Live music, food, and local businesses contribute to the
Live music, food, and local businesses contribute to the "block party" atmosphere of Back to the Bricks, one of the most popular activities during Welcome Week at MC.

After a 12-week hiatus from the spring semester, the stillness of summer on the Mississippi College campus will soon make way for the excitement of Welcome Week, when hundreds of new and returning students greet their peers and settle in for the University’s 197th academic session.

From pickleball tournaments and Residence Life Dodgeball to a disco-themed roller-skating party and kayaking at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a bevy of activities has been scheduled from Wednesday-Sunday, Aug. 17-21, to help MC students make new friends, renew old relationships, and prepare for the first week of classes at the Christian University.

Chief among the planned events is Back to the Bricks, a lively and informative “block party” in Olde Towne Clinton, where new students can learn more about the city’s churches, businesses, and resources.

Evan Warnick, a senior from Tupelo who serves as a Welcome Week director, said the schedule of activities represents a seminal event for new MC students.

“No matter where you are coming from, whether you’re a transfer student or a freshman, your first week on campus will arrive with excitement,” Warnick said. “You will meet lifelong friends, experience amazing events that get you acquainted with the city and campus you are living in, and most importantly, feel a part of the family that is Mississippi College.”

Warnick speaks from experience: both of his older brothers attended Mississippi College, yet when it was time for him to begin his university career, he had no idea what it was like to be a student at MC.

“On the first day of Welcome Week, I was greeted by returning students who were genuinely excited to meet me and help me feel at home at MC,” he said. “I met my best friends – and future roommates – during the first few events, and the crew members made me feel like I had been at MC for three years.”

Fellow Welcome Week director Marion Pohl, a senior from Bay St. Louis, said her team keeps the new students’ perspectives in mind while developing stimulating activities for the occasion.

“Meeting new people can be a hassle and sometimes extremely stressful,” she said. “The Welcome Week team works hard to put on events that can make people feel themselves completely and have all kinds of fun while interacting with new people.

“All of these events will turn into memories that these students will look back on with their friends and laugh about for years to come.”

Pohl still recalls her first taste of Welcome Week, when a “Silent Disco” event provided the perfect opportunity to develop new friendships.

“Although I’m a naturally outgoing person, college was a complete shift for me, because I knew absolutely no one when I came here as a freshman,” she said. “I was unfamiliar with the area, the school, and just about everything, but the Welcome Week events gave me a sense of belonging and direction.

“Going to a Welcome Week event can be nerve-wracking if you feel as if there is no one that you know, but I can guarantee that you will make a friend no matter what event it is.”

Jonathan Nutt, MC’s assistant dean of students, said Welcome Week activities are not all about fun and games – many of the events can have a positive impact on the new students’ academic experience.

“We’ll also be doing educational events to help students prepare for their first week in class,” Nutt said. “Students who actively participate in Welcome Week are much more likely to be successful during their first semester at MC. If they have a successful first semester, they’re more likely to continue their studies.

“Our efforts at retention are at the heart of what we do at Welcome Week.”

Welcome Week will begin Aug. 17 with Move-In Day. The residence halls on campus will be the locus of activity when returning students help incoming freshmen move into their respective rooms starting at 8 a.m., before assisting transfer students in finding their accommodations at 10 a.m.

Before family members say goodbye to their young collegians, they will take part in a New Student/Parent Convocation at 3:30 p.m. in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.

At 5:15 p.m., new and returning students will join Choctaws fans to cheer for MC’s student-athletes, cheerleaders, dance team members, and the MC band during the Choctaw Walk through the Quad, part of Choctaw Fanfare. Students will enjoy a tailgating meal and will participate in outdoor games before watching a Choctaws football scrimmage at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

At 8:30 p.m., Dr. Blake Thompson, MC president, will greet new students at a Welcome Week Kick-off event, and at 8 p.m., the students’ initial foray into life at MC will conclude with Game Night, large group activities led by the Welcome Week Crew.

Day Two of Welcome Week will begin with an emphasis on physical fitness: at 8 a.m., students will gather in the Quad for a yoga session and running. Newcomers will have an opportunity to speak with career services representatives during an Office of Student Success-sponsored event at 9:30 a.m.

The Multicultural Student Association will be part of a Diversity Event for students of all backgrounds at 10 a.m., and class registration will commence at 11:30 a.m. Starting at 1 p.m., three different organizations will host a trio of activities on campus, including pickleball, craft-making, and snow cones.

At 5 p.m., Back to the Bricks, one of the most popular activities for new and returning students and an event synonymous with the special relationship Mississippi College enjoys with the surrounding city of Clinton, is scheduled to take place on Jefferson Street in the heart of Olde Towne.

Nutt described Back to the Bricks, a vibrant street festival with live music, games, and other activities, as the city’s official welcoming event for all Mississippi College students.

“Local businesses set up tents along Jefferson Street, where they often have giveaway items for our students,” he said of the joint effort between the City of Clinton, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, and Main Street Clinton. “The MC Cafeteria serves dinner at the event. It’s a great way for our students to see that our community is glad to have them here, and it helps educate them about what it’s like to live in the area – where to open a bank account and get a haircut, all sorts of useful services.

“It’s a great way to strengthen our ‘Town and Gown’ relationship with the city.”

Tara Lytal, director of Main Street Clinton, said Back to the Bricks has evolved through the years from a basic downtown pep rally to one of the city’s largest block parties.

“It introduces students to the community,” said Lytal, who has helped coordinate Back to the Bricks for years. “They get to interact with representatives from local churches, banks, and businesses, and find out about the services available to them as residents of our city.

“When the students aren’t in town, you feel it. We always look forward to their return.”

She said students can pick up free Back to the Bricks T-shirts at the welcome table. Local businesses offer coupons and product samples and donate door prizes to be given away throughout the evening. Churches sponsor games and other fun activities.

At the City of Clinton table, city council members, department heads, public safety representatives, and other community leaders hand out ice cream to students.

“We want to embrace our students,” Lytal said. “It’s important that they venture downtown and connect with as many businesses as possible. We have such a quaint and inviting downtown area. Seeing all of the new students experience it for the first time is my favorite part of the event.

“Once these students graduate, if they get jobs in the Jackson area, we want them to stay in our community. Back to the Bricks is a big part of making them feel welcome and eventually converting them to residents of Clinton one day.”

After hitting the bricks, students with more energy to burn can participate in a disco-themed roller-skating party at 9 p.m. to close the second day of Welcome Week.

Following an 8:30 a.m. Zumba class on Friday, Welcome Week scouts and crew members will walk new students through their Day One classes while their professors gather in Swor Auditorium at 10 a.m. for a Faculty/Staff Convocation, followed by lunch in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center. At 11 a.m., transfer students will be treated to a brunch and pancake bar.

At 1 p.m., teams made up of residence hall members and their residence assistants will compete in Residence Life Dodgeball on a “Slip-n-Slide” tarp behind Cockroft-Caldwell Hall and Quick Hall. “The event encourages students to get to know the people in their hall,” Nutt said. “It is messy, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Saturday’s activities will begin on a nostalgic note with Saturday Morning Cartoons, a time for students to have breakfast, grab a loaded tea, and watch their comic favorites at 9 a.m. before embarking on an action-packed Day at the Rez at noon. Students will caravan to the Ross Barnett Reservoir, where they will enjoy water slides, kayaking, spikeball games, and food while “Chillin’ on the Rez.”

Several local restaurants will offer samples of their most popular dishes for MC students while they learn about local congregations during a “Local Tastes and Local Churches” event at 5 p.m. “The Office of Christian Life invites about 30 churches to campus so students can learn more about them and receive invitations to attend services the following day,” Nutt said.

“The Event,” dubbed the biggest activity of Welcome Week, will begin at 9 p.m. The mysterious themed attraction is Warnick’s favorite part of the week.

“It’s the biggest, most elaborate event during Welcome Week,” Warnick said. “Crew members hype it up and give several ‘sneak peeks’ during some of the other events leading up to it. I won’t spoil anything for this year’s event, but I promise it will be a blast!”

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, members of local churches will host breakfast and offer to take students to their respective worship services. At 2 p.m., Thompson will host an “Afternoon in Blue and Gold” at the president’s home overlooking Olde Towne Clinton. The event is a reception for students attired in the University’s colors.

At 5 p.m., all MC students will participate in an outdoor “Family Dinner.” “The idea is for everyone to start the new school year around the table together,” Nutt said. “It reinforces the theme of family that we cultivate here at Mississippi College.” To solidify that notion, the evening will conclude with Worship Night led by the Welcome Week Worship Team at 8 p.m. in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

New students will be free to navigate to class the following morning, but Welcome Week crew members will be stationed throughout campus to hand out free biscuits along the way.

Pohl said Welcome Week was such an enjoyable experience that she volunteered to serve on the Welcome Week Crew. Working behind the scenes on the event has had an even more lasting impact.

“I loved being a part of a group that worked tirelessly to make sure the new students felt welcomed, loved, and wanted here at Mississippi College,” she said. “You meet so many people, make so many memories, and gain experience in ways I didn’t think imaginable as a college student.

“As a former crew member and now director, I am able to see shy first-day freshmen turn into outgoing and lively students in just a week’s time. Incoming students who are nervous about going to events should jump in and try them. Everyone is experiencing the same nerves, so why not experience them together?”

For more information about Welcome Week, visit