FMU hosts annual First Friday: Welcome back, Patriots

Kicking off the first “normal” semester since the pandemic started in 2020, Francis Marion University (FMU) held its annual First Friday celebration featuring informational tents, food trucks, live music, a foam party and much more.   

“I think it was the best First Friday attendance we’ve ever had, and we’ve done it for four years now,” Chris Kennedy, director of Student Life, said.   

To prepare for the grand opening, Student Life began planning near the end of the Spring 2022 semester. With the promise of fewer COVID-19 numbers continuing through the summer, Student Life wanted to provide a successful event for the students.  

“We tried to get as normal as possible,” Kennedy said. “People have a lot of pent-up energy from doing everything virtually; we’re just sick of all that. We want to be a part of the campus community again.”  

While striving for a sense of normalcy, health was still a consideration in planning the event, even without social distancing. Working with the new Nurse Practitioner (NP), Amy Shockley, they created a safe environment for all the visitors at the event. They purchased water bottles to offer the attendees to combat the high temperatures, and they had a cooling room, defibrillator and EpiPens on standby.   

“We want to stop from closing down,” Kennedy said. “We want to be able to deal with this and have people come out and have a good time.”  

Though First Friday is an annual event, Kennedy and his team worked to make it better than ever through extra FMU merchandise, a DJ from the northeast, more rides and activities and a “stuff-a-plush” station.   

One aspect of the First Friday celebration is the row of informational tents from student organizations presenting students with what they could choose to join on campus. The different tents held members of the organizations offering swag and activities to entice new members.   

One tent run by the Society of Physics Students (SPS), advised by Jeanette Myers, utilized an interactive event with turntables and weights to show students a visual of physics in the real world.   

“We just talked to physics faculty and staff and planned out what would be best to grab interest and get people off the main walkway,” Alexander Kellerhouse, a senior computational physics major and Vice President of SPS, said.   

The members provided demonstrations by standing student volunteers on the turntables where they moved their arms closer to their bodies while holding weights to see and feel the effects of their center of gravity, angular acceleration and angular momentum.    

“We wanted to let people see some sort of physics rather than hard equations,” Kellerhouse said.   

Like other organizations on campus, SPS used First Friday to expand awareness to new students and attract members.   

“It gives students a chance to interact with people who are already a part of the organization who have a better understanding of what is coming in the organization,” Naeem Roberts, a senior computational physics major and treasurer of SPS, said.    

Before First Friday, FMU offered several different events to help welcome back students to campus, such as a silent disco and the Greek pool party. Kennedy said they wanted to start the momentum from freshmen move-in and continue from there.   

Following positive feedback for the event, Kennedy plans to sustain the energy through the rest of the semester to the next big event in October: FM A’Glow.   

“I didn’t hear any negative complaints,” Kennedy said. “I think we hit the sweet spot.”   

One student, senior art education major Brittany Sehnke, used First Friday as an opportunity to spend some time with her classmates from her Ecuador trip.   

“First Friday has so many people and so many opportunities to socialize,” Sehnke said. “I’m also with some of my friends from Ecuador, and this event helped me rekindle that relationship with them.”   

Sophomore business major and international soccer player Paal Vistnes claimed to have heard about First Friday from other students around campus.  

“It was impossible not to come,” Vistnes said.   

“The energy level has been phenomenal,” Kennedy said. “They came out in huge numbers for everything.”   

Leading into the rest of the semester, Kennedy and Student Life look to further student involvement in events around campus. Kennedy said that diversity and inclusion are the foundations of everything, and they actively try to project it through new events.  

“We want to do more of these co-curricular things where students actually come up to me and say, ‘I learned something, and I wasn’t even trying,’” Kennedy said.   

The implementation of new co-curricular activities will allow different departments and organizations across campus the resources and support to hold their own events and give more opportunities to students for learning and socialization.