Cal Poly’s Week of Welcome (WOW) for incoming students is one of a kind. Founded in 1956, WOW has grown to become the largest volunteer-based orientation program in the country. Each spring, current Cal Poly students flock by the hundreds to Chumash Auditorium to sit on the hardwood floor for 30 hours to become WOW leaders. They then return to school early in the fall to attend pre-week training and start “The Week.” You may think we’re crazy, but being a WOW leader is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a student at Cal Poly.
1. Spring training graduation feels like you genuinely accomplished a great feat.
All of the LITs (Leaders-in-Training) spend three hours every Tuesday night on the floor of Chumash Auditorium for 10 weeks of spring quarter. From previewing awareness topics to learning New Student and Transition Program traditions like Flashmob and Mundane, all of the LITs put in their all to becoming the best possible WOW leaders.
2. Coming back in the fall to chairs in Chumash is the best back-to-school gift you ever could have asked for.
If you have ever been a WOW leader, you know how amazing chairs can feel compared to the hardwood floors of Chumash you endured during spring training. You finally begin to regain your original butt shape that got flattened the quarter before.
3. The 16 hours of meetings in three days during pre-week makes you rethink your decision to do WOW.
Pre-week is the few days before WOW where the leaders get a refresher on what was covered during Spring Training and build on their leadership skills before the WOWies arrive. A lot of material is covered in those three days, and the soon-to-be WOW leaders get a taste of how tiring the week is going to be.
4. But then… YOU MEET YOUR WOWIES FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!!
5. You feel like you just birthed 15 of your own children all at once and are exploding with love for each and every one of them.
This is true. Once your wowies spot you and your co-leader holding your group sign, a family is born. You feel so much pride and happiness that this day has finally come.
6. 6:30 a.m. morning meetings become the bane of your existence.
All of the WOW leaders have to go to 7 a.m. morning meetings everyday. The catch though, is that we actually have to arrive at 6:30 a.m. to pick up our packets for the day before the meeting. Let’s just say, sleep deprivation is real during the week.
7. By day three, your leader shirt smells like a mixture of hiking the P, copious amounts of coffee and a Grover Beach campfire.
There is a never-ending joke that the leaders are only paid in shirts. And that is completely true! We all receive one free leader shirt… which is supposed to last the whole week. That makes for a very smelly shirt.
8. You are so proud of your WOWies for being respectful at the awareness presentations and are blown away by the deep insight they share during processing.
The awareness presentations cover topics such as sexual assault, drug abuse and mental health. Often, this is the first time incoming students have had conversations about these topics.
9. Saying goodbye to your WOWies at the end of the week feels like breaking off individual pieces of your heart and sending them into the world.
After a week, you and your WOWies have bonded into a tight family. All of the WOW leaders get a taste of how their parents feel during the beginning of empty nest syndrome.
10. And finally, yelling “THAT’S MY WOWIE!!” never gets old.
Whether you’re on your way to class or driving to the supermarket, seeing one of your wowies is the highlight of your day. And that calls for yelling, “WOWIE!!” really, really loud.
There really is nothing like being a WOW Leader. The bonds you share with your group and your co-leader are unexplainable to those who have never experienced it. WOW is an incredible program for the new students and their leaders. Though it is tough and takes a lot of time and commitment, all of the rumors of the work being worth it are true. Long live the magic of WOW!