New graduate students proceed through the Van Wickle Gates as part of a ceremony held March 1 that marked their official entry into the Brown community. Photos by Nick Dentamaro

Date March 1, 2021
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Brown welcomes graduate, medical, transfer students with second Van Wickle Gates procession

With pandemic safety protocols in place, the students joined others from the Resumed Undergraduate Education and Brown-RISD Dual Degree programs for the tradition marking their official entry into the Brown community.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For generations, new undergraduate, graduate and medical students at Brown have together proceeded through the Van Wickle Gates at the start of the fall semester in a tradition marking their official entry into the University community.

Health and safety concerns arising from the pandemic spurred changes to this year’s tradition, with the customary single walkthrough in the fall replaced with two early spring events to ensure the health and safety of Brown and its neighboring communities.

On Monday, March 1 — two weeks after the first Van Wickle Gates Walkthrough welcomed first-year undergraduates to Brown — roughly 400 graduate, medical, transfer, Resumed Undergraduate Education and Brown-RISD Dual Degree students proceeded through the gates in the second walkthrough of the 2020-21 academic year.

The ceremonial procession was an opportunity to bring together groups of students who bring varied experiences with them to Brown, said Caroline O’Daly, a sophomore transfer student concentrating in art history and English.

“There's something to be said for sharing this experience with other people who have either gone through college already or had another life experience — whether that was in the military or working — before coming and starting their journey at Brown,” she said. “I think that gives a new perspective to the event — there's a sense of camaraderie, and that you all are in this similar experience together.”

With the majority of campus events being held virtually since the school year began, the walkthrough also gave students a chance to meet each other in person, said Nikhel Sylvain, a sophomore transfer and political science concentrator who served six years in the U.S. Air Force before coming to Brown this year.

“It's the first time I’ll get to see a lot of these faces, which is exciting,” he said.

The piles of snow lining the streets of Providence during the first walkthrough have since melted, but the second procession retained the health and safety features of the first.

The event was held over several hours, with students lining up — masked and 6 feet apart — along Prospect Street at staggered times assigned to them before the procession. And the full route was peppered with free mask stations, signs reinforcing public health guidelines, and representatives from the Department of Public Safety, who cheered the new students along while offering reminders of pandemic protocols.

Students also received gift bags with Brown-themed cold-weather gear before departing campus.

While most of the students participating in today’s ceremony have been on campus since the fall, proceeding through the Van Wickle Gates still carried a special significance, Sylvain said.

"I feel really honored to be part of this tradition that’s welcomed Brown students for generations,” he said. “My soul will finally be here."

Van Wickle Gates Walkthrough


Transfer, Resumed Undergraduate Education, Brown-RISD Dual Degree, graduate and medical students participated in a time-honored Brown tradition.