Follow the white spray-chalk dog prints and you wind up at … Fall Fest 2019.
Such was the case for the hundreds of attendees of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) annual outdoor welcoming party for new and returning students.
The dog prints in front of various UMB buildings pointing toward Fall Fest were in honor of Lexi the K-9 comfort dog, one of the newest members of the UMB Police Department, who also was in attendance. More on her later.
The celebration of music, games, food, prizes, and giveaways began in front of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, where a long line formed. Why? “They have food!” said Alisa Pravdo, PT, DPT, assistant professor at the School of Medicine, nodding toward the Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken workers. “Those of us working the Physical Therapy table have been rotating between our table and here.”
The Office of Accountability and Compliance table was busy, as was the Family Community Medicine and Faculty Physicians table, whose red headband giveaways seemed a particular favorite. One table was giving out housing brochures. “We’re with Southern Management Corporation,” a worker said, within sight of the SMC Campus Center, partially funded by Southern Management.
Down past the Campus Center, people were enjoying the photo booth in the back corner of the School of Nursing lawn. “This is so easy,” said Mary Vogel, a student at the School of Pharmacy. “It will email you or text you the picture and we don’t waste paper.”
She had just posed for a picture with fellow pharmacy student Lauren Proctor, who liked that Fall Fest allowed students to get information from a lot of organizations, not just their school. “It’s a refresher of all the services that come with our tuition,” Proctor said.
The organizations filled row upon row of tables. UMBrella, UM One Card, Parking and Transportation, American Heart Association, Doctoral Student Organization, Center for Global Education Initiatives, Financial Services, Interprofessional Student Learning and Service Initiatives, UMB CURE, UMB Indian Association, Student Advisory Organization. The balloons at the Queer Student Alliance table brought students to discuss LGBTQ+ initiatives.
In the opposite corner of the School of Nursing lawn from the photo booth, a long line waited to spin the prize wheel at the Communications and Public Affairs table. Participants could win smaller things like UMB lanyards, magnets, cellphone accessories, or the grand prize — a UMB picnic blanket.
Nearby “Officer Lexi” was the hit of the UMB Police Department table. In addition to greeting guests, the four-legged patrolwoman had her own picture card with breed, date of birth, likes (“tennis balls”), and dislikes (”loud buses”) on the back.
“Lexi is loving being introduced to more members of the campus community today and is excited to meet even more students throughout the semester,” said Carin Morrell, MA, public information officer for the UMB Police, who was credited with the “Lexi cards” by Chief Alice Cary, MS.
UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, made an appearance, greeting and chatting with many of the attendees. Hurricane Dorian even cooperated, bringing some wind but no rain to the annual festival.
Working the Office of Student Development and Leadership table, Cyndi Rice just beamed at the busy scene around her. A 40-year UMB employee, she perhaps knows best how Fall Fest has grown.
“I helped create this at least 20 years ago,” said Rice, director of Student Affairs. “Originally it was to introduce new students to student resources. Now it has grown so much with not only the student organizations but all the University ones as well. I’m totally proud, and I hope Fall Fest lasts forever. It allows the whole University community to mix and mingle and learn more about each other.”