Wildcat Warm-up counselors show off MHK, coach on diversity

A group of incoming freshman pretend to eat Call Hall ice cream during an icebreaker the second day of Wildcat Warm-up. The new students were told about many different activities around campus they can get involved in. (Archive Photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

Months before the 13th annual Wildcat Warm-up program, a summer orientation for Kansas State freshmen, the counselors sprang into training. The program, for the counselors, spans across three sessions throughout June includes a pep rally with head football coach Bill Snyder, a tour of Aggieville and — this year — an “intercultural immersion experience.”

For incoming freshmen, Wildcat Warm-up is an opportunity to spend a weekend on campus to get a head start on making new friends and familiarizing themselves with K-State while also attending freshman orientation and enrollment.

After two interviews, the counselors began training to become masters of what K-State has to offer, but this year’s training didn’t look quite like training from prior years. Counselors also went through intercultural competence training.

“We all had to go through quite a few hours of training and take a test and see where you were at,” said Madi Bowers, Wildcat Warm-up counselor and sophomore in communications sciences. “They put all of us on a spectrum, and we met with a one-on-one counselor. So now we’re able to facilitate those small groups that happen during the big lecture when the students go through.”

Those small groups follow a presentation by Mike Finnegan, assistant professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies. In the groups, counselors challenge incoming freshmen to consider new perspectives.

“It’s all volunteer; it’s more asking rather than telling,” said Lane Lundeen, Wildcat Warm-up counselor and sophomore in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. “The [Intercultural Development Inventory] staff members aren’t wanting anyone to feel uncomfortable or discard their beliefs. They are just wanting us to become more tolerant and hopefully able to become more inclusive people.”

One Wildcat Warm-up participant, Maggie Horton, incoming freshman in early childhood education, said the diversity presentation was “eye-opening.”

“I think it said a lot of things about the university and the fact they believe it was that important for the incoming freshman to understand how they prioritize community and accepting each other and being able to celebrate our differences,” Horton said. “And it was really cool to kind of break down those walls and start understanding about who our fellow students are.”

The Wildcat Warm-up schedule also includes a pep rally led by Snyder on the participants’ first day in town.

“The pep rally is a way that the students can learn about certain traditions such as the fight song, alma mater, Wabash,” Lundeen said. “And coach Bill Snyder comes and he speaks and talks about his K-State story. We have dinner provided, and we get to know our students more. It brings us together and lets us know why we’re there.”

Bowers and Lundeen were participants in last year’s Wildcat Warm-up, and they said they loved it so much they had to return as counselors.

In addition to providing that same “sense of becoming the K-State Family” that she received last year, Bowers said she wanted to be a familiar face to a group of incoming freshmen when they officially arrive in the fall, just as her counselor was to her.

“I told all the girls that were in my group, ‘I’ll be on the ninth floor [of Haymaker] if you guys want to come say bye when you’re checking out,’ and like every single one of them came up to the ninth floor,” Bowers said.

Lundeen has connected with the participants in his group too.

“I actually cried when I was saying goodbye to both groups that we had so far because they made such an impact on me, being able to see them grow and develop connections in such a short time, being so eager to be a part of the activities,” Lundeen said.

The last Wildcat Warm-up session of the summer begins this Friday.