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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Activities & Organizations

Coogs become one


Shasta and the marching band help rile up the crowd at the pep rally during Cat’s Back. The event also featured free food, music, contests and other activities designed to promote UH unity and celebrate the start to school.  | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

Shasta and the marching band help rile up the crowd at the pep rally during Cat’s Back. The event also featured free food, music, contests and other activities designed to promote UH unity and celebrate the start to school. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

UH continued its nearly decade-long tradition of ushering in a new school year as thousands of students, staff and alumni packed the University Center for The Cat’s Back event on Wednesday.

Students were treated to an afternoon filled with free refreshments, music from Houston’s New Hot 95.7 and giveaways sponsored by student associations.

The Houston Rockets, Dynamo and Aeros sponsored a slap-shot contest and gave away more than 100 free tickets to the former Calder Cup Champions 2011-12 season.

The afternoon was not all about free food and goodies.

The Cat’s Back was a chance for students to develop a sense of school spirit and become more aware of the activities and student organizations that are available.

“It’s somewhere where the whole school all gets to join together,” civil engineering sophomore Maria Gutierrez said.

“I’m having a great time and I love the free stuff.”

The Student Government Association was on hand to help drive that spirit forward with a Car Bash – an event where students have a chance to take a hammer to a late ’90s model Saturn that is lined with the names of the rivals on the upcoming football schedule.

The Cat’s Back is designed to “entertain, inform and inspire” students for the impending school year.

Each year’s event is centered on a theme that is selected by The Cat’s Back planning committee, made up of students and staff.

This year’s theme, “Be One,” encompasses aspects from the University’s new standing as a Carnegie-designated Tier One institution, as well as the sense of community that comes from being a part of something bigger.

Keith Kowalka, the chairman of The Cat’s Back and assistant vice president for student development, hopes many new and returning students will draw inspiration from such a theme.

“I hope for three things; one, that they’ve met friends, two, that they feel part of something larger than the event — that being the University of Houston — and three, that they really generally have a good time. Both from a social perspective but also from an educational perspective,” Kowalka said.

As much as this event serves as a school introduction for students, it is also a chance for over 520 UH student organizations to recruit new members.

“This event is a great chance to get our organization out there,” said Scott Gilbert, president of the American Advertising Federation.

“The more students we can get involved the better opportunities we can provide for our members,” Gilbert said.

The Cat’s Back is the official welcome event of UH.

It was founded nine years ago in 2003 by Kowalka and two other university employees because they felt that the school was missing something for the opening week of classes.

Understanding that UH is a commuter school, the group felt that a weekend orientation — which many universities have — would not be successful.

“The thing that was missing was some major event on campus that would be open to everybody,” Kowalka said.

“That was really the reason we started The Cat’s Back.”

According to the school’s website, the event is one of the single largest events on campus, as well as the biggest student organization fair of the academic year.

Preparations for such an event took a collaborated effort from all students and staff involved.

What began as an eight month process — starting this previous January and involving bi-weekly meetings between three event, marketing and budget committees — culminated into a popular, growing school tradition.

“It’s a great way to get people connected,” Kowalka said.

“It’s also a great way to set up their year in a positive way.”

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