By Theo Schwinke
Devin Tilawen charged through the Columns, arms and legs pumping, far ahead of the other students in his Tiger Walk cohort.
He sprinted the southern half of Francis Quadrangle, stopping to rest only when he reached the shadow of Jesse Hall.
“I’ll remember that,” he said, catching his breath. “I’ll remember being first.”
Tilawen had just completed Tiger Walk, an annual tradition in which new students walk — or, usually, run — through the Columns, symbolizing their entry to Mizzou.
“Honestly it’s electrifying,” says senior Lynn Kreul. The president of the Alumni Association Student Board was on hand to cheer new students on their Tiger Walks.
“M-I-Z!” she shouted.
“Z-O-U!” 16 new students responded in unison and started running toward Jesse and their futures.
“This is a moment when students get to experience a big tradition at Mizzou,” Kreul said. “Whereas many of their special moments haven’t been the same this year, this is a chance when they get to take part in a safe, in-person event.”
Safety precautions mean that, unlike in past years, this year’s new students took their Tiger Walk in turns, with groups of no more than 20 students passing through the Columns every 10 minutes or so. The first Tiger Walk of the year took place Aug. 19, with the last scheduled for Aug. 23.
“It is different, but what’s different about it is also making it super special,” Kreul said. “You are with a close number of people, and you actually get to know their names as you run through.
Meeting new people and making friends are key aims of Welcome Week, a series of events of which Tiger Walk is a high point. New students spend the week before classes start learning to navigate campus and its resources.
Many of the traditional Welcome Week events had to be adapted for safety reasons. The midnight barbeque was canceled. The annual painting of the M in Memorial Stadium has been postponed.
But student organizations, academic units and various departments were still hosting workshops, open houses and other events — all scaled down or otherwise adapted to meet campus restrictions on most gatherings of more than 20 people.
First-year student Peter Chau was looking forward to spending the balance of his Welcome Week exploring opportunities for involvement. He was interested in joining a business-oriented student organization and the Asian American Association and planned to look into study-abroad opportunities.
“I feel like those opportunities are what make Welcome Week matter,” Chau said. “It’s pretty fortunate that we still get to do this. I’m grateful for the opportunity Mizzou has provided.”
Recovering from his run through the Columns, Chau looked back at the Quad. “There’s a bit of magic going through that,” he said. “You feel like, ‘Man, I really made it to college just now.’”