Accepted students and their families gather in McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall Monday at the start of the day's many activities. Photo below, left, is Michael Stefanowicz.
The chance to sample a Saint Michael’s College experience brought scores of enthusiastic accepted students and their families to campus on Sunday and Monday, Feb. 19 and 20.
First came a group of nearly 80 students who for most of Sunday took advantage of the College’s new and innovative “First Class” program, which allows them to earn valuable college credit with a choice among hybrid classes taught by regular Saint Michael’s instructors in environmental studies, literary studies or personal financial planning. The remainder of these courses will unfold online as instructors and students build on Sunday’s extended in-person time together.
Most of those families who had come up for Sunday’s “First Class” daylong sessions stayed for Monday’s Accepted Students Day, joined by about 40 more students and their families who only came for Monday’s activities, said Mike Stefanowicz, Saint Michael’s director of admission. Similar Accepted Student Days will be the Mondays of February 27 and March 6, he said.
Both days exceeded expectations. “We were really happy with the program on Sunday, and faculty and students reported really good experiences,” Stefanowicz said. “After a welcome from me, they were sent off to classrooms, while the parents had largely unstructured time so many went off to explore Burlington or check into a hotel.”
Primarily, the day was designed so students might get acquainted with classmates and their professors, he said. “They spent time first getting oriented on some of our campus systems with the help of our IT folks, and the library staff gave an overview of what research resources are accessible remotely,” Stefanowicz explained. “Then the last part of the day was them delving into their actual course topics, which they all seemed to like.”
Sunday was the first and only in-person meeting for the classes, he said, though “they’ll have other activities with synchronous learning happening -- maybe dialing into a webinar with other class members and the professor.” He said perhaps 20 of the First Class students already had made deposits for attending Saint Michael’s before the weekend, and based on Sunday’s experience, a few more joined that number.
Most of the students for both days’ events came from the most common home areas for Saint Michael’s students across the New England and Northeast states, but some attended from farther-flung regions, included one from Puerto Rico and another from Nebraska, Stefanowicz said.
“I think what’s really exciting is that we’re showcasing what we do best, which is teaching and learning – that’s the heart and soul of Saint Michael’s,” he said. “We’ve never been able before to give an in-depth feel for this, so we’re excited about this innovative way of doing that.”
Monday’s Accepted Students Day
Early Monday, a breakfast for students invited into the Honors Program started a full day of events for Accepted Students Day, before that group joined those checking in for the day at McCarthy Arts Center. Families heard opening congratulatory and encouraging remarks there from Sarah Kelly, vice president for enrollment and marketing, and first-year student Keyana Smith. “Her speech was fantastic I thought," Stefanowicz said of Smith. “She told how she really gets inspired by faculty members as an exploratory major, so she touched on the academic experience she’s had that has livened up her curiosity – religious studies and English were two classes she mentioned.”
From McCarthy, families were directed to various sites around campus to meet with representatives of each student's intended major. Later, parents and students went into two separate groups, each engaging with an informational panel for questions and answers designed to assuage any worries or anxieties. Students heard current students sharing a range of experiences, while parents, with Kelly moderating, heard from staff representing such key offices as Student Life, Career Development, Academic Affairs and Campus Safety.
Parents and students remained at separate sites for an activity at lunch, with parents in Dion and students in a section of Alliot dining hall. Each group took part in an engaging and interactive faculty-led presentation that simulated what a liberal arts conversation would be like in a college setting.
In closing remarks, senior Valentina Rojas ’17 described how she has zeroed in on a research interest in her two majors with a project on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, approaching the topic through multiple lenses. President Jack Neuhauser wrapped the program up by stressing the value of such multiple perspectives in lives and careers, and he reflected on the Catholic tradition at Saint Michael’s and the uniquely appealing democratic tradition of Vermont Town Meeting.
Stefanowicz said his office also will be hosting two similar events on April 1 and April 8 for students admitted on the regular-action timeline.