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Block Party kicks off fall semester on Denton campus

Texas Woman’s University’s annual block party welcomed students, faculty and staff to campus this past Friday with fresh food, live music, activities and vendors to explore.

Held in the area surrounding the TWU Greenhouse, Block Party shared in the “Adventure” theme being used for move-in, challenging students to complete tasks while enjoying their last Friday before the semester begins. While the Block Party activities and vendors change each year, organizers said they sought to more closely reflect the purpose and outcomes established during the planning processes that began in March. 

“One of the main things that we want to get out of [the block party] is to help students connect with other students, faculty and staff in a casual atmosphere when they first get here,” an organizer of the event and Associate Director of Student Union Programming Anna Kessenich said. “That helps increase their sense of belonging and helps them feel like TWU is here for them.”

For some students like first-year nursing major Anahi Ortiz, events like these are important in helping to ease anxieties and get students excited for the semester to come.

“Being a first-generation student – it’s nerve wracking, of course – but I’m really excited, and we’ll see what the future holds,” Ortiz said.

Caroline Cave, co-captain of the Pioneer Pride Dance Team, performs at the Block Party at The Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas on Friday, August 23, 2019. Photo by Sarah Pham.

Other students attending the block party expressed a similar mix of excitement and stress.  

“I’m pretty excited for the semester,” junior psychology major Aleksandr Farwell said. “I just registered for all of my classes last minute, so I’m a little stressed from that, but I’m really excited.”

At check-in, students received their food tickets and a fan with a map and a list of challenges to complete on the back. Kessenich said the list of challenges reflect the committee’s mission to make Block Party a welcoming introduction to life at TWU.

“Some of those challenges are things like throw an ax, practice archery or climb a palm tree, but other challenges include things that encourage them to meet other people, like give a stranger a high-five or meet a faculty member – things really to try and help increase the social purpose of the event,” Kessenich said. 

Kessenich also said that more faculty and staff have volunteered to help with the event than in the past, which gives more opportunities to connect with students in environments other than in the office or the classroom. 

The dunk tank, added this year, was one of the attractions that allowed for students to interact with faculty and staff. TWU student Heather Bennett even took a successful shot at Chancellor Carine Feyten to plunge her into the tank below. 

Connection with students and staff was not the committee’s only goal, however. 

“The second thing is that we want students to feel like they’re part of a big tradition on campus, and that generates a sense of Pioneer Pride in the students,” Kessenich said. “Third, we really want students to get exposed to some of the local Denton things.”

What Kessenich looks forward to most, though, is reducing their waste by installing large water dispensers and recycling bins around the event grounds, encouraging students to use reusable water bottles that they were given at Pioneer Camp or offered at the event to returning students. From sustainability to intentionality, the Block Party featured many additions that Kessenich and other organizers hope to continue for events moving forward.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated TWU’s mascot Oakley dunked Chancellor Feyten.

Featured image: Heather Bennett (left), Jordan Garcia and Danielle Rogers pose for a photo during the Block Party at The Texas Woman’s University in Denton on Friday, August 23, 2019.

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