Move-In Day exciting, emotional, smooth
“It takes a village to get this place ready – and ready we are,” President Lorraine Sterritt told newly arrived Saint Michael’s College first-year students Friday evening.
Nearing the end of a full and tiring yet exhilarating Move-In Day, the speaker and her audience, all together for the first time, were by this time true believers in those words. They were fresh witnesses to well-organized, all-hands-on deck support from nearly every campus office, displayed in residence halls, at Ross Sports Center and elsewhere for many hours starting at 9 a.m. with the first arrivals in vans, cars and trucks bearing plates from all over the Northeast and beyond.
“You and I have come to Saint Michael’s at the same time. And for that, you will always be my class,” said the College’s first woman president in its history (who started her new job July 1), to appreciative applause from her Chapel audience – the new class, parents, faculty in full academic regalia, Orientation and administration leaders, all packed warmly (both in spirit and temperature) into the spacious chapel venue for the 7 p.m. New Student Convocation.
The traditional ceremonial culmination of Move In Day, the Convocation also drew inspiration from last year’s top teaching award winner Traci Griffith of the media studies, journalism and digital arts faculty, whose deft and thought-provoking professional story-telling skills enabled her to indirectly tie a Gospel story from that day’s 4:15 p.m. Mass in with her message on the positive power of challenging the familiar but limited outlook of our personal experiences with many diverse perspectives. Student Association President Jake Myers weighed in on the importance of decisiveness at crossroads. Everybody also learned and sang together the Alma Mater, another tradition, led by Faculty Assembly Moderator/Marshal Peter Harrigan of Fine Arts. The class and faculty further pledged formally to one another to take their work together seriously, as Enrollment VP Sarah Kelly “handed them off” to Dean Jeffrey Trumbower, having found and proclaimed them worthy to enter their studies. Orientation leaders lighted candles on the steps as the new class exited the chapel at dusk.
Here, chronologically, are some snapshots of Move-In Day leading up to the Convocation — wrapping up with a few more words from the president and other speakers’ eloquent remarks there:
- Almost 9 a.m. and O-leaders dressed in black shorts, and shirts reading “Saturday Knight Live” get pumped up by ringing cowbells and blasting tunes before the first cars pull up in the inner lawn of the main Quad dorms, since their task will be to help unload the vehicles and carry belongings up to new rooms. New Public Safety officer Keller Longchamp says, “It’s awesome, I love it, I don’t’ know what it will bring but we’ll see! – we’re directing traffic to make sure things go smoothly.” A soccer team walks across the 300s field in route to practice – fall sports teams have been on campus about a week already — as the first cars drive in.
- Family No. 1 to arrive in front of Lyons Hall (Joyce Hall across the way is closed for renovations this year, reducing the vehicle count a bit) is from Garden City, Long Island, arriving with both a mini-van and a U-Haul since dad Craig and mom Mary Beth Kallem are delivering both a junior girl back to school — Kristen ’20, who’s moving into the 100s townhouses with a bunch of friends – and, at the moment, their son Robert, who’s going to be a first-year. “I got a big truck this year since two people are moving in,” says Craig. “We came up last night – the town is crowded! My wife said to get here early, and I just listen to her!” Of his son, he said, “I’d say he’s nervous-excited, but having a sister here will help.” Kristen is an environmental studies major, while Robert is interested in business and psychology.
- Student Association President Jake Myers and a buddy, helping as O-leaders with the move-in, are goofing on cars arriving from their home state of Massachusetts, pronouncing the word “cahhhh” with the familiar regional accent. One arrival is new student Jeremy Hallal from Andover, MA, who plans to study psychology and says he’s interested in “anything outside” such as hiking or biking as extra-curriculars. “I know who my roommate is but we haven’t met yet,” he says, adding that his family came up the night before. His dad, John, remarks that the O-leader crew helping them unpack “is amazing.” He says Jeremy has an older brother at George Washington University, and then a 7-year-old brother, and “Jeremy is his hero.” John says a nephew of his is a St. Mike’s alum and former soccer team captain from six years ago. “This is unbelievable with amazing help, and we’re excited for him,” John says of Jeremy.
- Lyons resident director Taylor Donnelly says she is on hand “welcoming students, helping with any issues, trouble-shooting, helping unpack and meeting people. I was an RA three years and an RD three years, but never an O-leader,” she says. “My first year was in Lyons and now my last year will be in Lyons working for Student life – we’re part-time graduate assistants but it feels full-time.”
- Annie Good is arriving from Norwell, MA to study neuroscience and play lacrosse, and her dad, Jerry, says it’s their fifth child and last going to college, which “feels melancholy – we’ve been through it but it’s still a tough day – you’re dropping off your baby now.”
- Jeff Ayres, political science professor and former Dean, walks by the library on the way to his office and says, “I love the day new students move in – it gives me a fresh sense of excitement and anticipation for the new school year.” He’s looking forward to lunch with faculty and students in Alliot later as in years past, but also has prep work for the three courses he’s teaching for the semester. The chief librarian John Payne walks by and says Durick library is “open for business” with many students and families stopping in “to show themselves around a little,” adding of the arriving students, “We miss them in the summer so it’s good to have them around.”
- Over at The Ross Center, families and new students are drifting in to get keys, to learn about various offices, opportunities and services, and to grab pastries and coffee. Outside, parent Michael Hopwood is playing with Pumpkin the dog, who is along to lend moral support to Bo from South Hero, Vermont, a transfer student from Furman in South Carolina, who’s moving into Canterbury – he’ll have seven roommates in his eight-peson suite but each has his own room. His twin brother is here to help, but later in the day, the family will drive that brother to Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York for his sophomore year.
- The line in Ross for check-in for Orientation at about 9:20 a.m. is pretty long but moving efficiently. One of the first tabling-combos is for Edmundite Campus Ministry/the MOVE Office and the Society of St. Edmund, with a host of priests, active students, campus ministers and volunteers chatting about offerings. Fr. Michael Carter ’12 says “we’re really consolidating our efforts with Campus Ministry and MOVE at one table here and we’ve drawn the S.S.E. table right next door, giving the full-court press for everything we do here.” Fr. Lino Oropeza ’11 beside him says a MOVE group already did some volunteer work installing efficient windows at a mobile home park in Milton the day before – he and Carter say they plan to resume their YouTube “Edmundite Show” soon after a summer break.
- Jonathan D”Amore, assistant dean of academic affairs, is talking with Dawn Ellinwood, VP for Student Affairs. She says, “new student orientation has become a true campus event – academics, facilities, admissions, all involved and of course student life and residence life, and this is a well-oiled machine and well-rounded experience, the best welcome our families could get I think.” Adds D’Amore, “It’s about being ready to welcome the students in the way that we need to academically for my office and the people who work with me.”
- Along the east and west walls of Ross are many services for students being represented. They include preferred hotels for college visitors, a campus laundry service, banks, career education and alumni engagement center, student employment financial services and the Bergeron Wellness Center, where director Mary Masson said “we encourage students to come by with any need, whether they’re not feeling well or would like to learn more about our wellness activities … and of course flu shots available in October.”
- Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety, said he’s excited that in talking with this year’s seniors “we’re getting a good solid culture change and recognition of the partnership” in advancing public safety on campus. An ice cream social to end the evening sponsored by his office is designed so “before you put your head on a pillow you have met Public Safety … and learn about who we are as real people” – a success when first tried last year, he said, so they’re doing it again.
- Two Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue student volunteers said their main message was that “we’re real EMTs and real firefighters and actually go out and do all that, serving a primary area much larger than just the college,” as Chris Johnson from Lynn, MA, put it. “It’s hard, takes a lot of dedication and work, but I think it’s worth it.” Both he and his tabling partner, Seth from Ashwaway, RI, are neuroscience majors.
- President Sterritt is being her usual social self as she walks around Ross with her husband, Bert Lain. “I’m just really excited to see all our first-year students arriving – they’ve got parents, grandparents, guardians and friends with them, so it’s very exciting to see the whole family affair that is going on as they are bringing their sons and daughters to be part of our family,” the president says. She plans to walk around all day meeting new students and parents, welcoming them to Saint Michael’s, she explains, adding, “I’ve only been here two months myself and the welcome could not have been warmer so I’m going to be paying forward the warm welcome.”
- Campus music minister Jerome Monachino ’91 has a new perspective on Move-In Day after experiencing it himself many years ago as an arriving first year, then for many decades as a staff member – his daughter Olivia was moving into Ryan Hall, with plans to major in biology. Her dad was a science major too, but got caught up in the music ministry while a student and never looked back.
- Patrick Gallivan ’89 of the President’s Office was coaching Jeff Vincent of Student Life for his duties later in the day running a “Fun For All” ice-breakers event – something Gallivan had done for about the past 20 years running, but was passing off this year. “It’s all about students getting to know each other and welcoming them to the community they’re now a part of,” he tells the nervous but positive Vincent.
- Carlos Vega of the Admission Office, associate director of admission for multicultural enrollment and athletics liaison, was enjoying his “favorite day” as usual, saying he’d just spent 45 minutes “talking with a grandma from Colombia in Spanish, and she started crying” over the emotions of the day, which he found moving as well.
- Corey Thibodeau of Denmark, Maine, a senior double major in business and environmental studies, was tabling for the Adventure Sports Center, touting the new ski and ride pass with Sugarbush and the outings he’s most involved in as the back-country ski and ride coordinator and mountain bike instructor.
- Sarah Kelly, VP for enrollment and marketing, said she was looking forward to the mid-afternoon Mass when “we come together to be quiet a little bit” on such an active day. “It takes enrollment, marketing, all of student life, all of academic affairs, physical plant, Sodexo, campus ministry – every office on this campus to do this day, so it reminds us that’s why we do what we do,” she said. “We’re back … we’re back! And then Monday we get to go and get the next batch!”
- Michelle Sende is president of the Diversity Coalition and in Ross to talk about the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services.“It’s basically a place where student minorities go, a safe place for us to come together and organize different events where everybody is welcome.” An example is a coming bowling and pizza party this Sunday, says Michelle, who is from the Congo in Africa. Planning for several major events will keep her busy – a fashion show, masquerade ball, and international festival, she says.
- Ken O’Connell, coordinator of student veteran services, was talking with a student who served in the Marine Corps, Brett Gruber of Rutland, Vermont, a senior business major, who said he had served at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, supporting 21 embassies throughout north and west Africa. With such a background, he likes the international relations offerings at Saint Michael’s to augment his business studies, and feels smaller class sizes make productive collaborations possible — something he was used to in smaller units in the Marines. “Ken O’Connell and others in the office really help that transition from the military back into the school environment, which can be very difficult. We have a good place to hang out in Klein and talk and share our stories as well as work together and just try to find our path to success here at St. Mike’s,” Gruber says.
- By the bus stop at the main entrance, Kylie Bryce, a senior from Bakersfield, VT, has with her maybe a dozen other O-leaders who arrived at 8:30 a.m. and plan to be there till 3:30 in the afternoon waving signs, ringing bells and shouting greetings to new arrivals. Kylie, an elementary education and psychology major, recalls arriving with her mom as a first-year, “and she said you’re going to be out there yourself someday and I was so mortified but she was right! It’s so cute to see the kids are little embarrassed but the parents are so excited and embarrassing them, but it’s all part of it, and it’s really funny.”
- Back at the Quad outside Ryan Hall – it’s now late morning – The Biglin family from Maryland has just pulled up and are glad to have helpers for moving up to the fourth floor. New student Colleen says her little siblings, Megan, Kelly, and Brian are along, with her older brother already in college in Maryland. Mom Christine says St. Mike’s is “so much more relaxed” than trying to move in at a large state school from their experience. They broke up the 12-hour drive over two days, stopping to see friends and relatives. Colleen is exploratory for now but is “thinking history or anthropology” perhaps for a major.
- A tradition for mid-day on Move-In Day is the Legacy Photo of new students with their alumni parents and other family members on the Chapel steps, always a time for reconnecting and reliving memories among the alumni parents, who chatted also with folks from the College Alumni office and staffers from their own classes.
- Later in the Day, the main part of the Chapel is largely filled with students and parents for the Orientation Mass at 4:15 p.m. Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, director of campus ministry, is principal celebrant, and in his homily, he says that “to be a disciple is someone that never really reaches a destination as we know it because it is all about the journey, the following, the pilgrimage and the transformative experiences.” He adds, “Mistakes are never final, they can always be worked out.” Most of the campus Edmundites are on the altar with him and Monachino’s group provides the lively music, leaving the usual strong impression on those who have not experienced it before.
- Students gather on the lawn by the library after Mass for a barbecue while many parents head to Dion Center’s Roy room for food and socializing at a gathering hosted by the Edmundites, as many faculty begin to robe in preparation for the 7 p.m. New Student Convocation.
- At the Convocation that evening, Jake Myers, the Student Association President, gets vigorous cheers from O-leaders in the balcony as he goes to speak after the procession in of faculty and opening remarks from Dean/Interim VPAA Jeffrey Trumbower, and an invocation by Fr. Oropeza ’11. Myers tells of a time he was riding an ATV and didn’t decide in time which way to go, so he wiped out and broke a collarbone. “I learned two things. Firstly, I will never ride an ATV again. Secondly, I need to be more decisive in instances that need a quick decision,” he said, adding that lesson has helped him in college.
- Traci Griffith made her Address to the New Students by telling a story — her specialty as a journalist/lawyer — after first asking her audience to imagine only consuming culture “written by old, dead white guys” — Shakespeare, Walt Disney, (the 60s pop singer) Tom Jones — with their only conversations being with those with whom they attended middle school; then, she asked them to imagine a much more interesting reading list and body of experiences with broader insights into gender and race and international cultures and music styles such as Hip-Hop, socializing with people you “learned with and from, loved [who were] somehow different than you” – hearing “stories that help to define us as individuals and as people.” The story she then told sounded a bit familiar to those who had been to Mass that afternoon — about a group of friends, she called “Phil” and “Bart” and their group’s leaders, “we’ll call him Jay’” – a guy “from the sketchy area of town.” She developed the story to show these friends encountering issues of justice and hostility and reluctance to hear worthwhile messages, and only at the end she revealed how this was a story about the apostles from the Gospels. Quoting the author Dean Koontz to close, she concluded, “we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength – to the very survival of the human tapestry. Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world.”
- President Sterritt in her remarks said she has not forgotten what it is like to be a college student – “Perhaps, like me, you are the first person in your family to go to college” with many questions and anxieties to start. But, “the tough seek help” and “you are not alone in trying to figure it out,” she said. “We have many people here to help you.” While mostly academics- and mission-oriented, Sterritt’s words were practical and nurturing too: “You must get enough sleep. Eight hours a night. Seriously.” She defined for them the liberal arts as “the education worthy of a free person in order to take an active part in civic life.” An amusing story about her then three-year-old nephew in Ireland who told her he couldn’t be a hairdresser because he didn’t know what ‘style’ was, added a nice personal touch to her remarks – she said that “fortunately you have enrolled in an institution that is focused both on your education and on your future path – with style.” She spoke of the privilege of attending college in general and with such caring faculty in particular, of the Edmundite legacy that demonstrates “that one person at a time has the power to make a difference.” To parents she said, “I can guarantee that we will likely not return your sons and daughters to you as we found them,” but will support and push them. Her final admonition to the new class was “to do well and to do good….,” adding, “The world desperately needs people educated in the liberal arts to solve the challenges that we currently face…the world needs graduates of Saint Michael’s College.”