Engineering students kick off school year in swimsuits, floaties

Claudia Ng

Engineering students celebrated their return to classes with free food, music and poolside volleyball Sunday at Cockrell Kickoff.  

Cockrell’s annual back-to-school kickoff took place at the Gregory Gym pool and was organized by the Engineering Activities committee — a division of the Student Engineering Council responsible for planning social events to build a sense of community within the UT engineering student body. 

“Our hopes are to bring people together and have a good time,” said Sam LeBus, mechanical engineering sophomore and co-director of the Engineering Activities Committee. “It’s a great way for engineers to meet new people, especially first-years.”

LeBus said freshmen and transfer students historically comprised most of the attendees at the Cockrell Kickoff. To help incoming Longhorns cope with the anxiety of transitioning to college, the SEC strives to host social events where students can de-stress and forget about the tough engineering curriculum, LeBus said. 

“SEC will always focus on mental health as a main mission of ours,” said Jacob Stokes, electrical and computer engineering junior and member at-large of the Engineering Activities Committee. “We wanted to hold this event before classes really pick up, so people can come out and have fun.” 

Students lounged on the pool deck with new friends and familiar faces, donning burnt orange gear and holding paper plates stacked with Domino’s pizza.

“Engineering students tend to congregate together by major or already-established friend groups,” Stokes said. “If we can have those friend groups made here, that would be a good goal.”

Other SEC events include social gatherings at nearby parks where students can interact beyond the classroom. The Engineering Activities Committee intends to implement a randomized ride-share program for commuting to these parks, Stokes said, and the program would encourage students from different engineering disciplines to befriend one another. 

Mechanical engineering freshman Anastasia Timoshenko said she heard about the kickoff through an email sent by Cockrell, and she came out in hopes of making new friendships for the semester ahead. 

“We have a group chat for our (First-Year Interest Group), and some of us decided to meet up,” said Timoshenko while she and fellow FIG member, chemical engineering freshman Juan Ortiz, indulged in complimentary chicken fingers. 

Ortiz discarded his shoes and strode to the water. 

“Well, Juan took the lead,” said Timoshenko as she too made her way toward the now-occupied pool. “I guess I have to follow suit.”