Ignite the Night Kicks Off a Wild(cat) Welcome Week


Providence’s Downcity and Harborside campuses came alive this past weekend as new and returning students moved into residence halls and began preparing for Welcome Week. This annual kick-off to the fall term is jam-packed with more than 20 events to welcome students back to campus.

Welcome Week is more than just a series of events, however. It is a chance for all students to be welcomed with open arms into the Wildcat community. Alumni return to volunteer and take in the changes on campus, and faculty and staff mingle with students during most of the activities.

“Welcome Week is a wonderful time on our campus, where we recognize the importance of new beginnings,” says Dameian Slocum, associate dean of student development. “Whether it is pausing as a community during Ignite the Night to acknowledge new students, or attending any of the events occurring during Welcome Week to reconnect with returning students, these events all work together to help us pause and celebrate their achievement.”


As students moved into the Harborside and Downcity campuses, student and alumni volunteers helped move boxes and pointed newcomers in the right direction. In Delaney Gym, Jim Garcia ’08 helped to distribute uniforms for culinary students. “I get emails a lot asking if I want to volunteer,” Garcia says, “but my schedule never allowed for it until now.”

"All of our events are a chance for new students to build their social connections and our upper-class students to reconnect."

Garcia reflects on his experience at JWU fondly. After taking some time off from his undergraduate studies, he was a bit apprehensive about returning to school. However, his worries vanished once he met his professors. “They were so helpful,” he recalls. “I had a lot of questions, and they always stayed late for me and helped me through anything.”


Sunday evening saw the return of a new JWU tradition: Ignite the Night. Now in its second year, the event is an opportunity for the entire campus community to welcome the Class of 2023. Alumni came from as far as Boston to see this new tradition, including Steve Thomas ’95. “I wanted to see how the campus changed,” Thomas says. “I’ve been to a few alumni events, but I wanted to be back on campus for this.” Thomas wasn't alone in his sentiment; many members of the alumni community returned to watch the splendor, cementing their status as a Wildcat for Life.

Wildcat Willie led the new first-year students — each of whom received an individual lantern — on a procession through the Triangolo Gates. They were greeted with tumultuous applause from the waiting crowd of faculty, staff, fellow students and alumni. Following the procession, as night fell, students hung their illuminated lanterns on the Gaebe Commons lawn.

"We are part of a community, and to bring that community to life, it takes all of us."

In a new twist to the tradition this year, two alumni volunteers opened the gates for the first year students, representing the lifelong community ties that Wildcats benefit from at JWU. Lee Lewis ’99, ’04 MBA and Heather Singleton ’97, ’99 MBA ushered in the Class of 2023 along with Providence Campus President Marie Bernardo-Sousa, LP.D., ’92. “I wanted to see what this event was all about,” Lewis says, “and I wanted to welcome in the new class.” Lewis’ and Singleton’s career paths have direct ties to their experience at JWU — as students, they earned internships with two separate organizations. Today, they are still a part of those organizations, and have worked their way up. Lewis serves as the President of Junior Achievement of Rhode Island, Inc., and Singleton is the Chief Operation Officer of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association.


“This was a great opportunity for me to come back to campus,” Singleton says. “I lived in McNulty Hall as a sophomore. We didn’t have events like this, and it’s nice to be a part of it.”

Ignite the Night is a cornerstone of JWU’s efforts to build more and more traditions for the community to cherish and remember for years to come. “This year we have a lot planned,” says Ian Martin, associate director for events. “All of our events are a chance for new students to build their social connections and our upper-class students to reconnect.”

"This is not about one year or two years. This is about being a Wildcat for life."

Other campus traditions include Founders’ Week, which features the popular Senior Send-Off and a battle of the campuses, Wildcat Wednesdays, the Good Life Expo, JWU’s Day of Impact, and many more.

“We are part of a community, and to bring that community to life, it takes all of us,” says Bernardo-Sousa. “It’s the collective whole, the ‘OneJWU,’ that really brings the Wildcat Way to life. This is not about one year or two years. This is about being a Wildcat for life.”

Check out the full schedule for Welcome Week, or download the JWU App for the most up-to-date information on all campus events and happenings. Alumni interested in keeping up with campus events and volunteer opportunities should sign up with JWUConnect, the online alumni portal for Wildcats to connect with fellow graduates and the university.