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Mission to protect incoming UK student tradition: K Week continues with hybrid format this fall

By Ryan Girves
University of Kentucky

For more than a decade, K Week has welcomed incoming freshmen and transfer students to campus with a schedule of events designed to ease the social and academic transition to the University of Kentucky. Esteemed, “the best way to get started at UK,” K Week kicks off every student’s story.

Enter COVID-19.

The global pandemic has impacted every facet of the human experience and K Week is no exception. As the unprecedented national efforts to combat the pandemic continue to evolve, so do the efforts in the Commonwealth.

With added precautions, a hybrid format of in-person and virtual events, and the determination of the Office of Student Transitions and Family Programs, K Week will continue for the 13th year, welcoming more than 6,000 students to campus.

“While it is important for us to share K Week traditions with the incoming class, the health, safety and well-being of our students has to be our top priority,” said Nancy Stephens, associate director of Student Transitions and Family Programs. “So, while many K Week traditions remain in this year’s schedule of events, we have had to get creative with how they are presented. For example, the New Student Induction Ceremony will be live streamed rather than in Memorial Coliseum this year, and many students will watch it together with their K Teams.”

Signage promoting social distancing on the UK campus this summer. (Photo by Pete Comparoni)

During the four days of events, a number of precautions have been put into place to keep students safe — precautions that align with university requirements, which were informed by state and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines as well as the expertise of UK’s own campus health experts. For in-person events, gathering size restrictions have been issued, masks will be required and social distancing guidelines will be adhered to.

Stephens believes that even with the added restrictions, the outcome for students will remain the same.

“We are confident students can still have fun, meet new people and learn more about UK no matter how they take part in K Week this year,” Stephens said.“So many members of our incoming class missed out on cherished traditions due to the impact of COVID-19, and we are happy that K Week was not something they missed out on, too.”

Across the globe, the higher education experience is shifting. While some universities have transitioned to a fully online semester, last month, the university released the pillars of its restart plan for the fall, which made clear a commitment to returning to a residential campus.

To allow for in-person learning, new guidelines have been put into place that will alter what the back-to-school experience looks like. Some changes have left students uneasy, creating additional anxiety during an already uneasy experience.

Kasey Borchardt, senior program specialist for New Student Transitions in the Office of Student Transitions and Family Programs, hopes that K Week can help alleviate some of the added stress for students.

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“We know that transitioning to college can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time, and that will ring true even more for Fall 2020,” Borchardt said. “We recognize the anxiety some might have in coming to campus, and that’s why we’ve tried to make as many accommodations as possible. COVID-19 can make us feel isolated, but if students use their time during K Week to connect with others, it will have a positive impact on their experience.”

Through all of the uncertainty, K Week remains a constant; a constant that is made possible by the collective commitment to reinvent the university experience.

By bringing the campus closer as a community when physical distancing has become the new normal, K Week unveils to students why UK was the right choice when choosing where to start their next chapter.

While this year has been full of downs, moving forward, Borchardt foresees the future to be full of ups, starting with K Week.

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world around us can change so quickly, so I hope new students take full advantage of K Week and make the most of it,” Borchardt said.

To learn more about UK’s COVID-19 response and Fall 2020 restart, click here.

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