Students at Welcome WeekThe Line – the string of families sending their children off to college – surely started with horses and buggies back in 1851, then came the train, the Wabash Special that arrived downtown to signify the start of a new school year. Now, of course, it’s a parking lot (and fire lane) full of cars, loaded to the roof with clothes, keepsakes, knick-knacks and video games.

This year, The Line went to a new place: New Hall, Columbia College’s first new residence hall to open in 50 years. Its top three floors were open to welcome new occupants Wednesday, along with Banks, Hughes and Miller Halls. The product of a $20 million investment by the college and, thanks to a significant gift, the new home of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business on the building’s first floor, was abuzz with activity.

Wednesday kicked off Welcome Week, five days of settling in, getting to know you, getting your bearings and all the other necessities that come with the start of a new academic year.

Zyeon Oatts, a freshman from O’Fallon, Missouri, was impressed with New Hall. “I think it’s really nice and spacious, everybody was helpful getting everything up to the rooms.”

In all, the college welcomed more than 500 students into its residence halls, and Dave Roberts, dean for Student Affairs, couldn’t have been more pleased with how the week went. “They get to know who we are as a college, they get the find friends and find their place here on campus,” he said. “And we get to introduce them to all the great things at Columbia College, all the upperclassmen, all the things to do in Columbia.”

Oatts, who plans to study Forensic Science, chose Columbia College because of that program, and also because of its welcoming, family-type atmosphere. That was evident as he reflected on the New Student Pinning Ceremony, which serves as prelude to the college’s hallowed Ivy Chain ceremony on the morning of commencement ceremony (which will occur in 2023 for this class.

“I think it means a lot as people realize this is going to be your family for the next four years and try to get to know each other,” he said.

The final event for Welcome Week, Storm the Gate, came Sunday evening, when the new students braved a brief rain shower to rush through Rogers Gate and into Atkins-Holman Student Commons for frozen custard and a final evening of socializing before classes began on Monday.

Hailey Collins, a freshman from Springfield, Missouri, appreciated everything the college does to welcome new students. “It’s really cool that the school has so many traditional ceremonies that you get to be a part of, so it feels like a big family,” she said. “It’s hard coming three hours from home and being away from your family, so all these things make you feel really welcome.”

Like Oatts, Collins is also a new resident of New Hall, and shared similar sentiments about the new digs. “It’s awesome. It’s so pretty inside and like the rooms are really big and airy so it doesn’t feel like you’re stuck anywhere, so I really like it.”

The college is hosting a dedication for New Hall and the Robert W. Plaster School of Business at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25 and it is open to the public. Learn more at