A reimagined Destination Iowa State awaits incoming class

New undergraduates will get the typical whirlwind mix of campus know-how, academic tips, connections with classmates and Cyclone celebration at this year's Destination Iowa State, despite some revisions needed for an atypical fall. The program will be held Aug. 13-15.

Retaining the core aspects of the program to welcome and ease the transition of freshmen and transfer students was the focus as admissions staff considered what it would look like in an environment where large indoor gatherings are off the table due to COVID-19 concerns, said Sarah Merrill, new student programs director.

"We feel really confident that we will be able to provide a meaningful experience and one that supports the university's health and safety guidelines," Merrill said.

The solution in many cases is careful scheduling. Destination Iowa State participants will be assembled in groups of up to 75, with a Cyclone Aide as a leader. Events that draw crowds -- activities at the Memorial Union or breakfast on central campus, for instance -- will be held over longer time periods, with groups set for certain times to assure capacity limits are met and distancing is possible. Face coverings are required during all Destination Iowa State events.

"Everyone gets to participate, but fewer are participating at any one time," Merill said.

The kickoff rally will be virtual, with prerecorded messages from President Wendy Wintersteen, university leaders and faculty. As always, students will have a chance to learn the fight song. Other virtual additions include video meet-ups Cyclone Aides have held with their groups since mid-July and a recorded faculty presentation on how to succeed in the classroom.

Some new events were added. A mobile app-based scavenger hunt will acclimate newcomers to campus, and on Aug. 14, in partnership with the Student Union Board and the athletics department, registered participants can watch a movie on the video board at Jack Trice Stadium. Doors open at 8 p.m. for an 8:30 p.m. showing of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Usually, about 80% of incoming new students sign up for Destination Iowa State, but it's unclear how the pandemic will affect participation rates, Merrill said. 

"We don't know if it will be up because students are looking for more opportunities to connect or if it will be a little bit less because they're exercising caution," she said. "Either way, we extend all our newest Cyclones a warm welcome to Iowa State University."