By Dianna Douglas
Photos by Rob Kozloff
The Ratner Athletics Center was filled with first-year students during Orientation Week, as part of a series of creative activities designed to introduce students to the range of fitness and recreational opportunities available at the athletics center and across campus.
One major change is the offering of free FitChicago classes to all students, including undergraduates, graduate students, and students in professional programs. Physical Education and Athletics also is adding four-week mini classes and an increased variety of classes available through FitChicago. Yoga, Zumba, Pilates, core training and cardio kickboxing are some of the most popular FitChicago classes, which previously were available to students for a small fee.
“We’re creating a new, expanded model of athletics and recreation to meet growing demands and the diverse needs of our campus community,” said Karen Warren Coleman, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services.
Events took place throughout Orientation Week at the Ratner Athletics Center, the Henry Crown Field House and across campus. As always, all the athletics centers on campus are open and free for all students, including the swimming pool, cardio rooms, racquetball courts, an outdoor track and multiple playing fields for organized sports.
The College recently removed the fitness and swimming requirements for graduation, in favor of a voluntary model that offers students flexibility and choices in how they pursue wellness and athletics, Warren Coleman said.
“This collaborative and community-based approach will reinvigorate our fitness and recreational offerings, while improving access for students who would not have participated in the past,” she said.
The week of activities to introduce new students to athletics at UChicago culminated with the Quest, a competition between undergraduate houses. The challenge pitted teams against each other in a series of events that involved oddball relays, swimming with floating obstacles, spelling words with their bodies, and leapfrogging across the Main Quadrangle.
“There was a lot of running around, and it was a great way to see more of the campus and the athletics facilities,” said Anthony Crespo, a first-year from Chicago. Crespo competed with friends from Midway House, solving math problems, working out Bananagram puzzles, and running to and from the many athletic fields on campus for the good of his team.
Upon completing each phase of the Quest, his team would receive another clue with instructions. “Take a picture of your ENTIRE TEAM striking Jay’s pose with his trophy in his room,” read one clue. When they figured it out, the Midway House team members sprinted to the Ratner Athletics Center and posed for pictures with the very first Heisman trophy, blocking tackles and cradling imaginary footballs like first Heisman trophy winner Jay Berwanger, AB’36.
Tyler Wojak, a first-year student from New York City, said the events—some athletic, and some decidedly silly and quirky—reinforced the tight-knit community that he’s already enjoying in Thompson House.
“I’m really looking forward to playing intramural flag football with our house, and hope to join some of the club sports teams later this year,” Wojak said. He had used the fitness facilities throughout Orientation Week, including the weight rooms and basketball courts, and found them attractive and welcoming places to play and work out.
Continuing to promote a culture of wellness within the student body is a top priority for Coleman and for Campus and Student Life. “The University and the College are strongly committed to all of our athletic programs—varsity, club, and intramural,” Coleman said to the students in the College when she announced the end of the swim and fitness testing last month.
A newly formed task force will recommend plans to further develop physical education, and has asked the student body for suggestions and feedback.