Freshmen pose for a photo during the annual whitewash the A tradition

3 reasons your alumni experience starts now: Advice for new students

By

Tracy Scott

College is about new experiences — but it's also about traditions that link us to the past and future of the university.

Christine K. Wilkinson, senior vice president and secretary of the university and managing director of the Trustees of ASU, is a two-time Sun Devil herself. She has been president and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association since 2005 and says participating in Arizona State University's traditions is a great way for students to get involved.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Here, Wilkinson shares her take on ASU traditions and how the Alumni Association benefits incoming students.

Question: Why would a new or incoming student get involved with the ASU Alumni Association at the start of their collegiate journey?

Answer: The ASU Alumni Association serves as the lifelong connection to the university. It’s important for students embarking upon the pursuit of their undergraduate degree to get involved on campus and begin to formulate significant connections.

In addition to this longer-term goal, there is a more immediate benefit through the Student Alumni Association, the ASU Alumni Association’s club for students. This group serves as the spirit, pride and tradition keepers of ASU. One of the first traditions in which new students can participate at the start of the school year is whitewashing the “A.” This year marks the 80th anniversary of this tradition, where students hike up Hayden Butte — or as Sun Devils know it, “A” Mountain — and pour white paint on this 60-foot concrete and steel structure. New ASU students share this experience symbolizing the fresh start to a new year while developing pride in all that it represents.

Beyond this first tradition of the new year, SAA hosts tradition-based activities for students including the annual Lantern Walk and student turnaround trips for away football games.

Q: What is the importance of taking part in ASU traditions?

A: Participating in ASU traditions honors the history and pride of the institution and creates shared experiences for students.

One of the fascinating aspects of collegiate traditions is that they can change or evolve over time. And some traditions fade over time for any number of reasons. For instance, ASU’s Lantern Walk has evolved from a ceremony signifying a passing of the torch from the junior class to the senior class to a nighttime pep rally on the summit of “A” Mountain the Friday night before the Homecoming game.

Watch: A roundup of ASU traditions (and a bit of trivia)

And certainly, new traditions are introduced through the years. For instance, SAA started the T-shirt Trade-In event a few years ago tied into all of the rivalry-week activities, and that continues to be a popular activity for students as ASU gears up for one of the longest-running football rivalries in the country. ASU’s pitchfork hand sign has become a symbol of Sun Devil pride. Another new ASU tradition, the Curtain of Distraction, has gained national attention for creative antics.     

Through ASU traditions students become part of the university’s culture. These shared experiences — whether it’s whitewashing the “A,” building the SAA float for the Homecoming parade or creating the run-through banners for the home football games — give students the opportunity to take part in meaningful experiences and create friendships that will last a lifetime.

Q: What are some of ASU’s significant traditions?

A: ASU has so many wonderful traditions, and I highly encourage students to participate in as many as they can while they are here on campus. And once they graduate, there are still so many traditions alums can continue to participate in year after year.

  • Whitewash the “A”
  • Lantern Walk
  • Homecoming
  • Territorial Cup series
  • Devils on Mill and Gameday
  • The Inferno
  • Curtain of Distraction
  • Pat’s Run in Tempe
  • Tillman Honor Runs (which occur across the country in conjunction with the Tempe-based Pat’s Run)

Watch: ASU Alumni Association's Vimeo channel