Breaking the ice: Winter Welcome gives students opportunity to mix, mingle, skate and snack

Sophomore biomedical engineering student Madelyn Stilwell is no stranger to ice-skating rinks. A figure skater with more than 11 years of experience, Stilwell was thrilled when she first saw the ‘Winter Welcome’ signage across campus advertising free food, photo ops and ice skating. 

The ‘Winter Welcome’ celebration, hosted by Wichita State President Rick Muma, First Gentlemen Rick Case and The Student Activities Council, treated and greeted returning WSU faculty, students and staff back to campus following winter break. Stilwell was just one of many WSU students who dropped by to enjoy the free pizza and hot chocolate, snap photos from inside a giant inflatable snow globe photo booth and, of course, spend some time on the ice.

Faculty and staff took to the ice first the evening of Jan. 20 with a private skate from 4-5 p.m. before the gates were opened to general admission and students. From 5-8 p.m., students could be seen gliding, sliding, slipping and tumbling on the ice and taking intermittent breaks to enjoy the free hot food and drink. Participants were required to sign a waiver before receiving their free skates and making their way to the Record-a-Hit Entertainment rink in a simple and easy process for first-time skaters wanting to try their hand at ice skating.

For avid ice skaters like Stilwell, the event was a welcome reprieve from first-week-back jitters and served as a great opportunity to meet new people, catch up with old friends and have fun at a free, accessible venue.

“I’ve seen a lot of people that I’ve met from multiple different places around campus, which is super cool,” Stilwell said. “It’s a great way to bring all different majors and people of different class levels together. It’s really nice.” 

Stilwell began taking figure skating lessons more than a decade ago in her hometown of Independence, Missouri. Practicing on the same rink the Kansas City Mavericks play professional hockey on, Stilwell noted that the Winter Welcome rink wasn’t of superb value, with uneven inclinations and artificial ice posing difficulties to first-time ice skaters, but overall applauded the event for its inclusivity, convenience and affordability.

“It’s got an incline, so that’s not great. You’re going super speedy down one way and then struggling to back up the other way,” Stilwell said. “And since this is artificial ice, your legs are kind of catching on it anyways, so that’s another thing that kind of knocks you off balance. But it is good that it’s free and here on campus, so it’s really accessible and easy to get to.”

While it’s undecided if the event will become an annual tradition, over 100 individuals came to participate in the event this year.