May 25, 2019  

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Freshmen, New Students Participate in Golden Eagle Welcome Week

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Southern Miss freshmen and new students participated in Paint the Eagle Walk, a popular tradition that signals the beginning of fall semester at the university (Photo by Kelly Dunn).

The University of Southern Mississippi prepared a welcome nest for its newest flock of Golden Eagles this past weekend.

Golden Eagle Welcome Week (GEWW) is the official welcome event for first-year students to Southern Miss, along with Move-In Days for residence halls. GEWW takes place during the week prior to the start of fall semester classes starting.

During GEWW, first-year students are divided into small groups and led by a GEWW Crew member after they arrive on campus. Through the program, they learn about Southern Miss spirit and traditions, including the popular painting of the Eagle Walk, as well as activities and organizations that make up campus life, and the many resources available to them. GEWW Crew leaders also check in with new students throughout the beginning of the fall semester to help them with adjustment to life at Southern Miss.

Sean Smith and Abby Willis are GEWW Crew Counselors from Petal, Miss. and Laurel, Miss., respectively, and are committed to helping the new students get acclimated to their new home for the next four years. Smith believes one of the best things students gain from the GEWW programming is meeting new people from different backgrounds and learning that “no matter where you come from, you can always find something you have in common with another person.”

“This is a great group of new students,” said Smith, a junior in his first year as a GEWW counselor who also participated in GEWW weekend as a freshman. “It’s great to see them come in and immediately connect with each other and make new friends.”

Willis is impressed with the new members of the Golden Eagles family. “They’re diving into the paint (Painting of Eagle Walk) and everything else we’ve offered this weekend for them to get involved in,” Willis said. “We’ve asked them to get out of their comfort zones, try new things and meet new people, and they’ve responded with great enthusiasm.”

Joya Johnson, a freshman from Jackson and graduate of Murrah High School, she plans to major in marine science and join the USM Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp)

“I love the excitement that’s in the air here, and all of the opportunities available to you to get involved,” she said.

Cydney Landreau, a freshman from Columbus, Ga., also has family connections to USM, as her mother is an alumna. She she knew as soon as she got her acceptance letter that Southern Miss was the school for her.  She plans to major in theater.

“As soon as I got here and moved into Scott Hall, I started making friends,”  

USM’s strong psychology program, attractive campus, activities offered by the university and the city of Hattiesburg and close proximity to home attracted Sawyer Rials of Brookhaven to the school. He plans to earn a master’s degree in psychology after completing his bachelor’s degree, and work with autistic children.

“They really get you involved and make you feel welcome,” said Rials in his praise of the GEWW Crew staff, as he waited his turn Sunday to take part in the Painting of the Eagle Walk. “It’s been a great weekend.”

For more information about GEWW and resources for new students, visit

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