Move-In Day: Nostalgia, some anxiety, mostly excitement
Amid the happy noise, anxious anticipation and animated activity on Thursday morning around the busy Quad residence halls and in Ross Sports Center as the first-year class of 2021 moved into Saint Michael’s College on August 24 could be heard also the nostalgia of older community members who had been through all this before.
“Fun fact about my first-year room in Joyce,” said the College’s Admission Director Mike Stefanowicz ’09 as he walked around campus greeting families late in the morning: “Years before that, it was Father Brian’s first-year room!”
For his part, Fr. Brian Cummings ‘86, director of the College’s Edmundite Campus Ministry office, confirmed the Joyce connection shortly thereafter, as he, too, greeted families during a free lunch in Alliot dining hall. “I went to visit my old room from my freshman year this morning, and the student moving in was from Brooklyn, and a Yankee fan, so all is good!” said the priest, a Jersey City, NJ, native who is a rabid fan of the Bronx Bombers.
The 7 p.m. new-student Convocation in the Chapel that evening brought forth memories of a different type as Patricia Siplon, the top teaching-award winner from last year, spoke as is tradition to the new class, sharing, in a most politically and culturally timely and thoughtful speech, her own long-ago experiences coming to terms with racism, respect, and academic/personal self-discovery when she was a first-year student decades ago at a much larger western College.
A nice serendipity for President Jack Neuhauser as he walked the Quad area after lunch was encountering Patrick Curtin of Andover, MA, who was moving in his son, Patrick Jr., to Lyons Hall. Turns out the older Curtin, who called, beaming and rushed over to give the president a warm hug, was once Neuhauser’s student at Boston College more than three decades ago, when Neuhauser was a dean and professor there.
Concerning his new-arrival son, Pat Curtin Sr. said, “He’s all revved up and we’ve met his roommate – the College did a great job and we felt so welcome — I was so excited just driving here, and he was even more excited than me – and I’m an excitable person!” He said Saint Mike’s was the first College his son looked at and from then on “he couldn’t stop talking about the feeling he had first walking on campus” and meeting faculty and staff. “We went on after that looking everywhere else, and he kept coming back to this. The day that he said he wanted to come here, there was a collective cheer in our family!” Of President Neuhauser he said, “I don’t know how you guys were lucky enough to get him – he’s the best.”
One staffer walking the Quad area noted that for the first time, a few younger members of the new class were not even born until this century and never experienced living in the 1990s.
The day’s traditional bustle started on-schedule at about 9 a.m., with Campus Safety officers efficiently directing the loop of traffic into the Quad. Years of practice by now have made it a “well-oiled-machine,” several veterans of Move-Ins noted. Orientation Leaders in bright yellow shirts (alongside RAs with purple “Who Loves Ya?” shirts), had various low-key noisemakers (not whistles anymore) and greeted arriving families with great energy.
Patrick Gallivan ‘89, the College’s VP for government and community relations, described the scene that he loves each year, and why.
“The energy is palpable. To see the students running around, the upper class students, the new students and families, to watch them pull into campus and be greeted by a host of upper-class students who don’t let the parents touch a box or bag or refrigerator and have the child moved in in 5 minutes and to watch the expression on the parents’ face is amazing – it’s fun to see,” said Gallivan, who added that for him it was fun to see also alumni bringing their children “home” and seeing “the magic that’s associated with that” as alumni parents see major changes on campus.
“It’s a beautiful, wonderful day, my favorite of the year,” he said, echoing sentiments of several other staffers about this day. “And the Edmundite community is out in full force – this is their school so it’s wonderful to see them and I hope they take pride in this because it’s their energy that started Saint Michael’s,” said Gallivan, who later Thursday evening, as he’s done in the past, led a ‘Fun for All” event in Ross as new classmates got to know each other with icebreakers.
Friday he was to join the annual “SMC Connects Day” with smaller groups going out into the Community with a wide variety of excursion to promote bonding. “We have a group going down to spend time with Sens. Leahy and Sanders offices; I’m accompanying a group to see the countryside outside of St. Mike’s, a group is going to the Echo Center, some are going for runs, another group is visiting he Early Childhood Center at St. Mike’s, and still another is doing composting. The simple message is connecting – students, staff and faculty together. It’s their first day on campus and it’s nice to take them out and show the community.”
Meeting some families
Many cars pulling in Thursday bore plates from New England states, New York and New Jersey, but also seen were several from Virginia, one from Georgia, and even a family from Nebraska. Here were a few new-arrival snapshots:
- Mom Michele Early from Hamden, CT, was thrilled with the eager helpers: “It’s been fantastic, I thought I was going to be crippled by the end moving her in! (to Joyce 263),” she said, adding her daughter Jackie plans on majoring in psychology, and that Jackie’s twin sister is starting at UVM this week too.
- Kerrigan Goudreau arrived from Maine with her family the night before so they’d be all set early in the morning, as many families did; she plans to major in biology. She’s the youngest and last of two sisters to be heading to college. “This is a tough one cause she’s my baby!” her mom said.
- Lance Jandreau ’18, an RA from the 200s townhouses and an active member of the campus ROTC program, was pitching in as needed to help out. He spoke of the extensive training that staff have had this year — “lots of updated training on alcohol and sexual assault and diversity issues, which we really hit hard this year in the political climate we find ourselves in, so I feel our staff is well trained and know the resources they can go to.” He said he has taken under wing another first-year ROTC cadet – Myles Schaeffer from Massachusetts, and was looking forward to showing him the ropes
- Jessie Anderson is a Vermonter from nearby South Burlington High School. “I’m excited to start School here and don’t’ know where the journey is going to take me but I’m open to possibilities,” said the new resident of Lyons 159, adding that she’s grateful to have nearby family for support.
- The mom of Herbie Hazelton (Lyons 207, from Darien, CT) was getting both help and occasional distraction from Herbie’s younger siblings Hadley and Harper as they ran around in excitement. Herbie’s academic interest so far is “just liberal arts right now,” she said. “It’s our first child going to college so it’s so special, and we’ve had a good day so far. I am blown away by this coordination — it’s amazing what you guys are doing” she said. An O-leader from a nearby Connecticut town gave a warm home-state greeting to the family.
- Cam Sullivan from the College’s Rescue Squad, a biochemistry major with math minor, said he and other squad members “were told to just go help the freshmen and make it a good day,” which he was doing.
- The Heter family pulled in from Andover, New Jersey in a large SUV – Jason Heter has been recruited to play basketball for the Purple Knights; he seems to like computer science, said his nearly-as-tall dad, Frank, who described how they’d already had an adventure when the GPS took them to a ferry crossing that was closed late last night, but they found their way.
- O-leader Maddie Bennett ‘18 of Montpelier, VT, an American studies major with a double minor in education and applied linguistics, had a small cow-bell as her noisemaker, while other leaders had kazoos or other items less intrusive than the time-honored whistles of days gone by that got to be a little too shrill, the community decided, she said.
- Marlon Hyd from Brooklyn, NY said his family drove up starting early that morning.He was moving into Joyce and plans to study Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts. The family car had Georgia plates because of a recent move, causing some interest from the greeters, but Marlon said Brooklyn is home.So many choices
Over in the Ross Sports Centers, families came by once they were moved in to take care of early campus business. O leaders greeted them inside the door, providing folders with information on campus resources, orientation schedules, directions to getting room keys and other vitals. Inside the main basketball court area, various offices and clubs and programs had representatives with tables sharing information. For example:
- Adventure Sports Center reps offered $60 season ski passes from Smuggler’s Notch, and $45 rock-climbing passes for Petra Cliffs, said Steven Higgins ’10, an MJD major, and Beth Senior, a junior biology major, both ASC instructors.
- Deacon Michael Carter ’12, due for ordination as an Edmundite priest Sept. 16, was doing “double duty” promoting Campus Ministry programs and, more specifically, involvement in MOVE activities. He’ll be helping a fellow Edmundite at a nearby parish but also continuing some Campus Ministry work this year once ordained. “My ethos there is to always try to be present at as many things on campus and try to have my open door policy if a student from whatever background wants to talk about whatever issue,” he said.
- Kristin Achilich and Heather Lynch promoted the organic garden and sustainability activities and offered fresh produce for snacking, and had already heard some interest.
- A group at the Multicultural Affairs Office table was telling folks about a big International Festival coming up in early November.
- A new student was signing up for Fire and Rescue, which had several representatives talking up that signature St. Mike’s program. They’re particularly looking for drivers, said Jamie Schwab, 19, a business major from Cleveland, OH and the chief driver-trainer. A big and shiny new 30-foot 50,000-pound truck means about 15 hours of on-road driving practice and 15 hours pumping practice, he said.
- Angie Armour ’99 of the alumni and family office said she was enjoying meeting people from all over the U.S. “I met the very first student that I ever met from Nebraska,” she said, plus someone from northern California and several from Florida. She and her team were to be at Ross all day until 3 p.m. like many.
- Mary Masson of the Bergeron Wellness Center said “don’t’ forget to get your flu shots this October! We love providing students both physical and mental healthcare right in the same building.”
- Other tables included reps of local banks setting up accounts, and a Flynn Theater rep with information on cultural passes that let students attend any Flynn show for just $10, a great value. Financial Aid, Study Abroad and Athletics also had presences.
At the main college entrance from Route 15, as is tradition, a group whooped and hollered at arriving and passing cars and sought honks from passing trucks. “The response is great – over 70 truck honks!” one of them said. O-Leader/greeter Marilyn McCall, a junior biology major from Woburn, MA, said “I met just met someone from my hometown moving in while they were at the light here, and hopefully we will reconnect!”
Faculty were out too – Dave Heroux of the chemistry faculty, on the way to return library books, said, “I try to say hi to those who stop by in our building looking for classrooms,” further sharing that he always starts his first class each year with a big (controlled, deliberate and entirely safe) explosion. “I just blow something up! It’s always an exciting time,” he said.
By late afternoon with most students moved in – Jeff Vincent of Student Life said his staff was ready to greet any late stragglers on into the night however — many families came to a 4:30 p.m. Mass in the Chapel with Fr. Cummings presiding. Two hymns in particular seemed especially relevant: “Be Not Afraid,” and “This Little Light of Mine (I’m Gonna Let it Shine).” Fr. Brian’s homily centered on Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” That, he said, can mean looking around and discovering new ways of serving God, but also “coming and seeing all that the college has to offer,” he said, encouraging participation in chapel liturgies, volunteer activities and retreats.
After Mass was a reception with the Edmundites in Dion Family Student Center, with nice food for parents, while new students had a cookout together on the main campus green lawn.
New Student Convocation
The full day’s culmination was New Student Convocation at 7 p.m. in the Chapel. Faculty entered in ceremonial procession in full academic regalia and sat in rows on either side of the altar as organist Susan Summerfield of the Fine Arts Faculty played organ music. Ceremonial aspects of the nearly hour-long gathering included the class reciting an “Academic Pledge” and learning/singing the Alma Mater. The program centered mostly on inspiring remarks from speakers:
VPAA Karen Talentino as the master of ceremonies gave the official welcome and introduced speakers. Deacon Michael Carter offered the invocation, including these words from Proverbs: “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.” Said Carter, “your futures and our pasts are locked together now…”
The Student Welcome came from Sophia Adams ’18, the Student Association president for the second year running. She spoke of her appreciation “for the privilege to be here,” and said “as a community we must hold each other accountable “ if ever seeing people not giving the respect others deserve, perhaps due to race, gender, job title or other reasons – “otherwise it contradicts our mission as taught in the Catholic Tradition …. We must become the new normal here so we can become the new normal in the world.” She told of the life-changing example of the late Rev. Mike Cronogue, SSE, for her, describing how he made a point to walk campus getting to know the whole community and checking in with everyone. “So be brave … and welcome to St. Mike’s. Let’s be friends!” she said.
The main Address to the New Students was from Professor Siplon as the 2016 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award Recipient. Her personal story described a professor she came to respect and love while an undergraduate, a man who experienced painful and unjust discrimination that she saw up-close because this Egyptian was her adviser – she worked in his lab and spent time with his family. She started to notice “little things” that were discriminatory. “I watched him face the prejudices and bigotry of others and not let it create bitterness,” she said in gratitude. Another key lesson from him she passed on was how he was not bent on her just imitating his career and doing one particular life path – rather, “The issue was to help me find my moral compass, to discern my own voice, my own gifts, my own passions,” she said. “Do not make the mistake of letting fear of difference determine who will play a major role in your life … we are here to help you find your own compass and use it to chart your course.”
President Neuhauser, who recently announced he will be departing his role as president next year (thus making this most likely the last of these bittersweet arrival days for him) offered the kind of wisdom he has shared frequently to new students through the years at these occasions.
“With a little luck, some hard work and an open mind, these next four years will be a grand experience, one of the very few which can change the course of a life,” he said, further reflecting on the friends, mentors and effort that will optimize their “deep discernment of your place in God’s good world and what you can bring to your fellow travelers.”
“If I had just one word or phrase for you to take with you tonight it would be to learn to pay attention” he said – attention to the moment, to others, to themselves. “College is about trying to understand this good world and our place in it,” the president said.
To parents, he had this message: “Let me assure you that this community cares. We do not stand in your place, but we will take precious care of your children.”
And to the class in closing: “Welcome to each of you and please start well!”