From Ross to Quad to Chapel, traditions greet new class

August 26, 2016

For first-timers, it’s a day never to be forgotten. For veteran participants in Move-In Day at Saint Michael’s College, it’s a day that never seems to get old.

“Like a well-oiled machine” is how Public Safety Director Doug Babcock described the by-now practiced procedures that his officers and Student Life/Orientation leaders follow to keep traffic moving in and out of the main first-year residential Quad.

On Thursday morning about 9:30 a.m., Babcock was chatting in Ross Sports Center, where most of the major offices and programs on campus had tables set up to share information as families picked up room keys and registration packets while enjoying coffee, pastries and sociability.

The incoming Class of 2020 has about 500 members, both first-years and transfers, with a strong academic profile, said Sarah Kelly, vice president for enrollment, as she mingled with arrivals through the day.

Bells in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel tolled 9 a.m. as security let the first families drive onto wide sidewalks leading to the lawn area circled by four first-year residence Halls – Joyce, Lyons, Alumni and Ryan. Teams of “O-leaders” in powder-blue T-shirts (bearing the printed message “IG-Knight your future”) met each family with cheers and introductions — grabbing boxes, mini-fridges and other dorm essentials from the backs of trucks, SUVs and other vehicles that bore plates from all over New England, and well beyond. Typical unloading time for a vehicle rarely was more than 20 minutes. “Empties” quickly made room for the next vehicle in line as security directed folks to longer-term nearby parking.

At the College’s main gate students yelled traditional greetings to those arriving and got some honks, although the constant loud whistles of the past have been discontinued as a traffic-safety measure along Route 15. Signage all over campus pointed out major destinations families would need to know: Alliot, the post office and residence hall names

Back on the Quad, upbeat music cranked from boom boxes on outside steps of residences as the first families arrived. A uniformed security officer — Jim Watson’12, an information systems graduate who works part-time with College security, mainly on weekends — met each arriving car, and the pace never was overwhelming. Directly beyond him, offering more precise directions was Elias Dean’17, a political science major with a minor in creative writing and literature from Brooklyn, NY, who is a resident assistant from the 100s townhouses and was out helping to greet the new families.

One of the earlier new-student arrivals was Aidan Mulderrig. His dad, Terry, said that he had done this all before when the family from Rockville Center, Long Island, NY, had brought Aidan’s older brother, Jack ’14, to St. Mike’s in 2010, delivering  him to Ryan Hall, while Aidan was headed to 109 Joyce. “He’s following in the footsteps of his brother, who had such a great experience here,” said Terry, noting how Jack was a St. Mike’s swim team captain who majored in political science and now is in law school in at Brooklyn Law.

Terry, a retired law enforcement professional, said he and his wife, Pamela, both attended CUNY for college, but they love Saint Mike’s — as their sons seem to as well. “He wanted a small school, which it is, but it’s also very lively, and he’s so excited,” Terry said. “It will take him a week to meet people, that’s how he operates – he’s a little shy.” Aidan, he said, is also a swimmer.

Martin Blagdurn was helping drop off his stepson Liam Anderson in Joyce Hall. They had started for Vermont from Michigan two days earlier. “We had a big road trip last night and then we had dinner with his roommate’s parents,” said Blagburn, who is originally from England. Liam hopes to major in business, and is a downhill ski racer. “His mom is here, probably already in room 102 helping set up the room,” he said, marveling at all the help from the student unpacking teams. “He liked the idea of going to a Catholic college,” said Blagburn. “His brother goes to St. Thomas Aquinas in Michigan.”

Wandering around the general area to help as needed, wearing his Saint Michael’s Rescue uniform, was Frank Webbers of New Rochelle, NY, a business major with two years of service in the popular program. “I’m just talking up our program and getting our name out there, to tell people what we’re all about,” he said.

Outside Lyons was a vehicle with a Wisconsin plate belonging to the Gore family of Madison, WI. New student Henry Gore, a skier with a possible interest in environmental studies, said he had visited campus a year ago after visiting Vermont friends, and largely made a decision based on that. His dad, Dean Gore, said “it’s nice to be back,” observing he detected a similar vibe between their home town of Madison, WI, and the Burlington area.

Cindy Cristello from Clifton, N.J., was helping drop off her son, Nick, to 215 Joyce. Nick plans to study engineering, and also likes to ski. They had made the six hour drive up on Wednesday and stayed over, so they were ready for an early move-in.

Lauren Ivers of Franklin, MA, said she “really liked the small school and sense of community” at Saint Michael’s after coming up twice for visits. She is excited to major in biology and said, “I’m open-minded to see what they have” for activities, adding, “Skiing definitely!” While she hadn’t met her roommate from Maine, they had communicated and seemed to hit it off fine. Lauren’s mom and dad, Joan and Ray, savored the unexpected student unpacking help. Said Joan, “Oh my God, I thought I was going to be like a mule, and instead I have all this great help!” Along for the ride and adventure too were Lauren’s twin 14-year-old siblings, who said were looking forward to a visit to Ben and Jerry’s later. Neither could rule out considering St. Mike’s in their own futures.

Walking across campus from Ross to the move-in area shortly before 10 a.m. was Very Rev. Steve Hornat ’72, superior general of the College’s founding religious order, the Society of Saint Edmund. “It’s amazing how many parents I’ve been visiting with who were students when I was campus minister here in 1976, and they remember me,” he said. “It was wonderful to see them.”  Father Hornat stopped to visit with St. Mike’s Fire Crew members who were greeting passers-by next to one of their engines parked in the Ross lot, telling them how he was a charter member of their organization when it began while he was in college.

A gym full of possibilities

As families entered Ross’s side entrance, O-leaders directed families to get keys after giving them information packets. Amid the many offices tabling around the main basketball court floor area, Robin Rhodes-Astor of Admissions said, “this is my favorite day of the year because there’s nothing we need to do – they’re admitted, they’re coming, they’re excited, but often we’re the faces they know, so they stop by. It’s rewarding to see them arrive after an admissions cycle.” Like many tables, she was handing out stickers pens, maps, “and other “good swag.”

Edmundite Fr. Mike Cronogue said it was his favorite time of year too: “I like the enthusiasm of families, and all the hope. I try to go out and welcome people — I don’t’ wait for them to come to me.” The Edmundites were well-represented at their table by several veteran priests. Edmundite Father David Theroux chatted about programs with representatives of the campus Women’s Center at the next table, and newly professed Edmundite deacon Michael Carter’11, scheduled to be ordained this year at age 26, said he already has been quite active all week.

“I’ve done a service day at Rock Point School with the MOVE core team this week, moving in furniture, cleaning, painting, getting to know some of the kids, which was great; and yesterday I led three one-hour sessions on spirituality for that group on the spiritual aspects behind the MOVE ethos and how that ties into the mission of the College and Catholic social teaching, and the Edmundites specifically,” Carter said. He also chatted with a student from Montpelier who was interested in MOVE – the service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry — as preparation for possible Peace Corps work. Carter told him about a coming long-term service trip to India that seemed of interest.

A loop-walk around Ross offered a panorama of campus life: signs noted representatives for Work Study, Payroll, Information Technology, Financial Aid, Residence Life (particularly busy with key distribution all day), Athletics, Study Abroad, Cultural Pass — and that was just along two walls. Olivia Christie, an intern from Flynn Center in downtown Burlington, said the Cultural pass was a great deal and by mid-morning she already had many inquiries for the program that lets students get a $10 ticket to anything in the Flynn season.

Holly Bento of Sodexo food service told several families about a new “Surprise Someone” program for sending cakes or other treats on special dates to students. Several parents already picked up forms, she said.  Security chief Babcock said that, as important as traffic control on this day is, perhaps a higher priority is “having the foundations for relationship with students start right here, right now” with good conversations and information.

At the next table, Todd Wright was talking up the newly-named Adventure Sports Center that he leads (formerly the Wilderness Program) — particularly the Instructor Training Program and Smuggler’s Notch and Petra passes for skiing and climbing. As usual, it was one of the busier tables. A new student who is a military veteran was being shown round around by Ken O’Connell, coordinator of student veteran services, and stopped to chat with Wright, an Army veteran, about a program for getting veterans out fly-fishing in rivers that the new man is involved with.

Heather Ellis-Lynch, the College’s sustainability director, was passing out free veggies from the College’s organic gardens, and “one family already has come back for seconds, the tomatoes were so good.” The Center for Women and Gender’s director Micalee Sullivan already had passed out several brochures describing highlights of the coming year that excite her — like the group called “Muslim Girls Making Change,” who do slam poetry and are coming to campus in November. With Sullivan was student Marissa Keleman, a leader of the Feminist Club and also active with a group for first-generation college students on the St. Mike’s campus, which is putting on a September dinner to share experiences and support.

At the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services table, a student named Nga from Boston described “You Count” programs offered all year, which are both informational and socially fun, and give students who attend “points” for better housing choices next year, along with other prizes. Caroline Leccesel from Quebec, Tiffanie Katsuva from Congo, Talia Lawrence and Manuela Yeboha from northern New Jersey, talked about the Diversity Coalition’s popular fall International Festival that they will help organize, with all types of food, performers and other cultural offerings.

Other tables with steady traffic were Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue members in uniform, the Bergeron Wellness Center, with information on the new smoke-free campus policy and other offerings, and Study Abroad.

Patrick Gallivan ’89, vice president for community and government relations, has worked at the College since his graduation decades ago, but hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for Move-In Day. “This is the day where the Saint Michael’s community comes out in force to welcome the new members of the family, and it’s just spectacular to see the energy in this room and all around campus. It’s what we’re about,” said Gallivan, who was particularly pleased to see  his own classmates arriving to deliver first-year students.

Later in the day, faculty, staff, parents and students were treated to free lunch in Alliot Dining Hall, making for many informative and congenial conversations. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., a group gathered for a photo on the Chapel steps of alumni bringing their first-year offspring to college: Local residents Mike Duggan ’86 and Bill Frain’86, roommates in their college days as sophomores, were there with Thomas Duggan  ’20, who had just moved into Joyce, and Catherine Frain ’20 — also Joyce. The dads say they’ve communicated recently as they helped organize their class’s recent 30th anniversary, and both frequently connect with their classmate, Edmundite Fr. Brian Cummings ’86. The photo ended up having 24 alumni families who were bringing a new student, said Angela Armour, director of alumni and parent relations.

During a special Mass at 4:30 p.m. in the Chapel, most of the  main nave was packed with parents, students, faculty and staff. Most of the Edmundite community vested and processed to the altar for the occasion, and Rev. Brian Cummings SSE ’86 gave a homily relating the Gospel to the new-student experience. The songs chosen by Jerome Monachino’s tight and rocking Liturgical Ensemble also were appropriate to the occasion, including “Be Not Afraid,” and “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” as recessional.

New Student Convocation in Chapel

Karen Talentino, vice president for academic affairs, presided at that evenings 7 p.m. New Student Convocation in the chapel, which opened with a processional of faculty in full academic regalia and banners representing different campus honor societies. Edmundite Fr. Brian Cummings ’86 gave an invocation. Sophia Adams ’18, president of the Student Association, delivered well-received remarks about the importance of overcoming fears at college. She described her own experience of deciding to major in math and try ice-climbing despite instincts telling her to avoid both, and being glad she did. She ended by sharing “25 ways to have an epic experience at Saint Michael’s College.” A few of them: “pursue your passion, sleep outside, fall in love, change your major, ask for advice, watch a sunrise at ‘The View,’  hike ski or snowboard, climb rocks or ice, dance, question everything, study abroad, volunteer for MOVE, tell your own story, do the readings — it’s worth it, and overcome society’s complacency with injustice.”

Also well-received was the “Address to the New Students” from Professor of Biology Mark Lubkowitz, winner of the 2015 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award. He told a tale of parenting his own son that had elicited very different gut responses from his wife and himself regarding how much non-lethal playground risk was acceptable as they negotiated the sweet spot between “fearless” and “reckless.” For students, he suggested, “to sit comfortably and quietly in your classes and in your dorm room and do nothing is to be reckless,” as to not engage, not grow as a thinker or person, not challenge oneself. Fearlessness, he said, means raising a hand in class, challenging professors, and asking “Who am I? How did I become this person and who do I want to be?’

“Your job over the next four years is to fearlessly explore new ideas,” Lubkowitz said, wishing them luck as he and other faculty look forward to “walking fearlessly with you in this transformative journey.”

Academic Dean Jeffrey Ayres and Enrollment VP Sarah Kelly did the traditional formal “handing over” of the class to the faculty now that they have been found worthy and prepared for the experience. Music Professor and Chorale Director Nat Lew taught everybody the school Alma Mater, engagingly explaining its imagery and history. As Alma Maters go, it is a very good one, he said. Then organist Susan Summerfield accompanied while everyone stood and sang along. The organist/fine arts professor also played a beautiful processional and recessional.

President Jack Neuhauser, in his formal remarks, returned to his favorite traditional themes for new classes: That Saint Michael’s is not primarily about job training (though important) but also “understanding the world around us.” He told parents that “This community cares, and we take precious care of your students.” To the class, he said, “This is not a time to drift. The start is important and can set a tone for a lifetime.  Begin well, and the rest is much easier.”

View a gallery of Move-In Day photos

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