Move-In traditions make robust return

Weather is perfect as first-year students from Class of '25 arrive on campus with their families and cautious high hopes; President Sterritt out to greet them, along with most campus offices under outdoor tents

August 27, 2021
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
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Rugby team help was most appreciated for top-floor refrigerator hauling. (photos throughout by Alex Bertoni, Caitlin Lei and Mark Tarnacki)

View a photo gallery of Move-In Day here>>

Now that’s more like it.

After the pandemic last year limited any full experience of hallowed Saint Michael’s College Move-In Day, the best-loved traditions were back with bells on – literally in the case of O-leader greeters ringing little cow bells as celebratory noise-makers at the main gates. The day’s annual signature magical energy of hopeful anticipation, poignant partings, spirited Orientation leaders, well-prepared staff and perfect weather made Friday, August 27, another classic start to a new semester as first-year students and their families made their way to campus.

Careful COVID precautions of course were evident, with many masks worn even outdoors (though not required there) — including by President Lorraine Sterritt as she greeted new arrivals outside Lyons Hall before 10 a.m. Clear signage also was everywhere carrying reminders about community health expectations —  but none of that was dampening enthusiasm. A morning walk around campus offered telling snapshots of the special day and all that it means to the community:

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President Sterritt gets a photo by Lyons Hall with a team of yellow-shirted O-Leaders.

At about 9:30 a.m. at the front main gate bus stop by the Ross Sports Center Parking lot, Orientation Board member Shannon Murray ’22, a biochemistry major from Bow, NH, was leading a team of greeters as they rang a cowbell or two, hooted and hollered, held signs, jumped around and greeted families pulling into campus, as is traditional. Outside community members in cars and trucks honked and waved in support. Shannon plays women’s lacrosse, is secretary of athletics for the Student Government Association and a member of the Chemistry Club and Random Acts of Kindness Club.

“Anything I can be involved in, I join,” said the senior, sporting a glitter-painted face this day. “I’m actually a three-peat — I’ve done this all three years, though I move around for assignments … in other years I  helped move in, helped direct traffic and I’m finally out front! Of course last year we sadly missed it with the pandemic.” She said families were lining up by 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, even though move-in started officially at 9 a.m., but staff were flexible to accommodate everyone.

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The crew at the main gate by the bus stop where Shannon Murray ’22 (holding red sign aloft) was in charge.

A fly-over of F35s from the nearby Air Guard base gave the group a run for their noise-making money, but they seemed equal to the task. “They’re so eager to get to college,” Murray said of the new arrivals, adding that “the farthest plate we’ve seen so far is Texas!– hopefully they stayed overnight, that’s a long drive!” She recalled her own mom making a wrong turn on her own Move-In Day several years ago, and also feeling “awkward and shy,” but “orientation leaders make you feel comfortable being a little crazy”, and “now I feel like this is my forever home.” Her crew of six greeters were to be there until 2 p.m. — then on to “dinner with all our Orientation Babies, as we call them.” They also help usher for the New Student Convocation in the Chapel in the evening – “we’ve been through it,” said Murray. She said whistles used for welcoming noise in earlier years got some backlash, so the mellower cowbells are proving a solid alternative that still gets the job done to keep long tradition alive. “We have a photo in the student government office of people doing this same thing back in the1980s!” Murray said.

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Lots to tote, but lots of help too.

At about 10 a.m., Jeff Vincent ’93, dean of students/director of residential life, was on duty in the quad among the first-year dorms as families arrived in all types of vehicles from states near and far. He called it “a sunny, perfect day for moving in” and said the orientation leaders “have amazing amounts of energy — the men and women’s rugby teams and Fire & Rescue students and MOVE are helping people move in as well, so it’s a well-oiled machine and things are going very, very well.” Vincent described the main thing for him and his staff: “We’re happy to be in person, and so far so good,” he said. “We had some families come from Michigan and Cleveland last night and they got here early so we let them in as we always do — we’re flexible, and they were very appreciate.”

Learning from experience, this year instead of alphabetical arrivals by family last-name, families just “signed up for a time that worked for them,” Vincent said, “but if they come a little early or late, it’s OK.” Vincent’s next big event of the day was a 3 p.m. large “area meeting,” and then he was ready to run a “Fun for All” program of silly but purposeful ice-breaker activities in Ross Sports Center in the evening following New Student Convocation, as he has done the last few years. “I’ve taken that over from (former longtime staffer) Pat Gallivan ‘89 who was my mentor and friend for 20 years,” said Vincent. He said things have changed a lot since his own move-in day in 1989, perhaps partly because he is a Burlington area native. “My father was a firefighter coming off a shift, and while I was leaving, we crossed paths and he asked ‘what’s going on?’ and I said, ‘I’m moving into college’ and he said ‘let me know if you need anything” – it was a different time!”

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President Lorraine Sterritt was nearby and said she “came over to greet the students,” first stopping at the peppy greeters at the main gate – “a wonderful lively team” as she said, along with others helpfully directing traffic. “I just love that we have so many students helping carry boxes upstairs —  we hear about that all year, how much families appreciate that,” said the president, who already by 10 a.m. or so had talked to several families. “I think everybody is super-excited to be here and to start the year,” she said, adding that, like everyone else, she was grateful that the extraordinary heat and humidity of recent days broke, but also presumably will be at least a few weeks before the snow flies.

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President Sterritt does some photography with O-leaders from behind the camera.

“I think everybody was ready to be back in person, and we know that COVID is still out there so that’s why we have mask mandate indoors, while some of us choose to wear outdoors too,” Sterritt said. “The virus is still around and we have to be very careful, but we’re still glad to be as close to normal as we possibly can.” Her calendar was predictably booked for the rest of the day. After some meetings, she was heading to the Edmundites’ reception for families, and then “the joyous convocation this evening — so I will get dressed up in my purple bat-suit for the convocation! We love that event,” the president said. She headed off to take photos of and with the arriving students and O-leaders who sought them.

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A row of tents set up outside of Alliot Hall along the main sidewalk took the place of traditional similar indoor setups from Ross Sports Center in previous years, and, given the ideal weather, it seemed a perfect set-up. The Bergeron Wellness Center staff said it had been quiet so far after about an hour of early family arrivals, but they hoped for more to stop by soon. Said Tara Abele of the Center Staff, now on her seventh move-in day, “We’re just making sure everyone who is going to be residential on campus has had a CVOID shot or signed exemption waivers, then making sure of other immunizations that keep campus safe are completed; we’ll give them a spiel on how to access us and the services we offer, and we have counselors here too.”

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Signs remind visitors to the Campus Store in Alliot about masking policies for safety

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Diane Corbett, the College’s new director of financial aid, said that move-in days are typically busy for financial services offices since families have a lot of questions, but since it was her first opening day for Saint Michael’s, she was excited to get out of the office to meet and greet everybody and experience the good energy early on. At the same tent; Renee Davitt of Human Resources was answering questions about student employment opportunities on campus and was “just looking forward to meeting students and giving information on how to search for jobs and gain employment on campus.” For her, the biggest attraction after the long pandemic isolation was that, with tents from so many offices side by side outdoors for the day, “it’s a great way for us all to see each other and reconnect!”

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At the Edmundite Campus Ministry tent in front of Alliot, Edmundite Fr. Marcel Rainville ’67, longtime campus minister, said “We have high hopes — I think this is going to be a good year and we’re already planning for a resurgence in the whole of Campus Ministry activities here. He introduced Victoria Castillo ’20, a new staff leader for the MOVE volunteer group within the ministry. Said Castillo, “I’m so glad students are coming back on campus.” Later Fr. Brian Cummings, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, was out greeting students along with music minister Jerome Monachino ’91 (in this photo).

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Fr. Brian Cummings with group including music minister Jerome Monachino (blue shirt), his wife, Claire (left) and VP for Enrollment and Marketing Kristin McAndrew (right).

Longtime Campus Minister Anna Lester said, “I’m just excited to meet the new students and get them involved,; we’ve been doing the first-year retreat for a while and it’s such a lovely way to introduce first-years to Saint Anne’s Shrine and have upperclassmen talk to them about their spiritual life, balancing work and rest, and of course VITA, our peer ministry program, along with all our other retreat program offerings. We’re so excited students will have a chance to engage in a closer-to-normal way than last year.”

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Director of Student Life Kerri Leach might the busiest person on campus this coming weekend. After helping with move-in, she was to help lead the Community Meeting at 3 p.m., then move to the Chapel for Mass, then onto the lawn for dinner before getting into Orientation Groups for the first time, she said. After New Student Convocation and the Fun for All ice-breakers, first-years will all head back to halls for floor meetings Friday night, then Saturday will be busy with adviser meetings, an empathy walk to learn about different things and perspectives on campus, circle discussions, and then a big outdoor evening open house with 25 student clubs tabling along with Adventure Sports and the MOVE volunteer service office. “Palmers Maple Creemee truck will be here, we’ll have music, like a big block party from 8 to 10 p.m., so it’s going be a good time,” Leach said. “Sunday morning activities will speakers talking about healthy relationships. We pack things in there over two and a half days to be sure they get a real Saint Michael’s welcome.”

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Back by Lyons Hall, one family moving in a student was mom Barbara Ingalls and her daughter Diane, from Windham Maine heading up to room 205. Diane plans to major in mathematics and might be interested in trying out for cross-country since it is a sport she did in high school. Why she had not met her new roommate in person yet, they have communicated online. “I’m excited to be here,” she said.

Signs

Welcome banners are signs of the times.

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Making a shorter trip than many first-year families were parents Bob and Deena Cody and their son Bobby from Montpelier, the capital  of Vermont just a half hour away. The Cody family is well-known in central Vermont for their longtime Chevrolet auto dealership there and strong family record of military service including a brother, retired Army four-star General Richard Cody. “We’re excited,” said Bob of his son’s move into Lyons 409. “He hopes to play lacrosse and likes his chances after talking to the coach – Montpelier were state champs this year for the first time!”  Bobby, who also hopes to major in business, eventually might consider joining the family business where he has worked for his dad already, “but I’ll let him decide,” said dad. Bobby is first to head off to college, since his other sibling is a younger brother who was on-hand to help unload. “It’s emotional, but thankfully he’s not that far away,” said his dad, who graduated from Fordham University, and said he always had liked Saint Michael’s and looked at it for College himself. “I’ve always like St. Mike’s,” he said. “My mother’s first cousin was a trustee for years here – Ned McCarty, who went on to be a doctor.” Both parents were loving the move-in help from students. “I was telling my wife that this is the best check-in I’ve ever seen,” he said, adding that they planned to either stay around or return later for Mass in the Chapel at 4 p.m. for arriving families since they live so relatively close by.

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Stan Valles, the College’s new director of Public Safety, said the morning was going well from his perspective — mostly “because of our collaborations with residence life and having a team of people who know how to do this well. My plan is to defer to those who have been here longer than me — and it seems to be going well.” Valles said that between several meetings on his schedule for the day, he was going to “try to hit as many events as I can, and meet with the incoming class and Resident Directors and Resident Assistants to let them know we’re all on the same team.”

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More playful signs of the times

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Another family pulling in for a move-in to a cheering welcome were the Escobars from Sparta, NJ – new student Sarah, dad Fabian and mom Eleana who was up getting the new room in order. They had come up on the familiar six-hour trip the night before and stayed over in order to be on time – familiar, that is, since the family often comes to Vermont to ski. In fact, Sarah is an alpine ski racer who attended Waterville Academy in New Hampshire who plans to compete for the Purple Knights. “I’m here first for the grades but then also for sports,” she said, adding that her older brother recently graduated from a Pennsylvania college, and she’s more used to moving to dorms than many from her ski competitions, meaning “I wasn’t worried about it, but this is college, not high school, so it’s still a new experience.”  She feels “St. Mike’s is pretty well-known for ski racing.” Sarah hopes to major in psychology, possibly on a pre-law or clinical track. She was pleased to have just met her new roommate, Olga, whom she found “very sweet and down-to-earth, I like her.”

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The bustling move-in scene on center campus.

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Paula Burns, St. Mike’s Class of ’84, had come up with her two sisters from Guilford, CT, to help her niece move into Lyons. “I lived for my first year on first-floor Ryan, and so this brings back memories — I’m overwhelmed … I’m tearing up…” Paula said, noting her sophomore year was spent living on first floor Lyons while her niece is heading to the second floor. That niece, new student Claire Bransfield, is the daughter of Maureen Bransfield; mom’s other sister, Carol Bransfield, also was along for the big day – they all live near one another. One of Claire’s cousins is a UVM junior living off-campus so they plan to hang out regularly. “I heard this a big cornhole school (a game involving throwing beanbags) and we’re pretty good at cornhole, so if there’s not a club we’re going to start one!” said Claire, who hopes to major in psychology.

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Another psychology major was Norah White from Hull, MA, arriving with mom Carolyn White and large entourage including dad Steve, dog, Leo three sisters and her grandparents. Said mom Carolyn, “Our oldest daughter goes to UVM so we’re familiar with area, and knew Norah wanted something close to home but far enough away. She really liked the area, but it was a hard choice since couldn’t really visit; we felt a smaller school was really important after the COVID gap in her high school education, and so thought St. Mike’s would be a place she might get the support she needed after a year of being less than ideal with the pandemic. Norah played lacrosse in high school and used to dance, “and was looking into volunteerism, so we’re hoping that comes about too,” her mom said. Norah had not yet met her new roommate in person but had connected on Face Time.

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Part of the day for many families was lunch for the first time in Alliot.

Outside Alliot, Sodexo food service staff said they were excited to have students back; they set up tents and were offering beverages – tea, lemonade, water, coffee, orange juice – along with mini Danishes or doughnuts. The College’s Director of Personal Counseling Kathy Butts stopped by and had memories of own move-in day in 1985 with the Class of ’89. “I actually lived up in Hamill hall on the old North Campus, one of six first-years living on North Campus, so it was different from this, but I remember it was gorgeous sunny day like this and I was so anxious but excited to be joining the cross-country team, coming up from Dartmouth, MA.” Butts became an English major, but her broad liberal arts broad background helped her move into psychology after working post-graduation with adolescents and becoming more interested, so she returned to graduate school to be a counselor. She also remembered being an Orientation Leader three times herself, “so I have real affinity for these O-leaders and their energy.”

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Joel Ribout, director of facilities, stood with colleagues by the now-open field where Founders Hall stood the last time Move-In Day happened two years ago (after a century or so witnessing move-in before that). Now Founders has been removed in the past years since it was authoritatively deemed beyond salvaging, and on Friday, workers had just put down hydro-seed for grass around newly paved walkways across the space, which is starting to look quite attractive again just in time for the new semester.

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A warm welcome at Hoehl, including from the Archangel.

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Over in the Hoehl Welcome Center, home to the Admission Office, brand-new staffer Vernita Weller radiated enthusiasm as families checked in initially, got room keys and picked up packets of vital information.

“We’re welcoming families, so it’s exciting and we’re celebrating, –we’re just so happy to be here and just loving meeting all the students and their families,” said Weller, adding, “It’s my first Move-In Day, so it’s so much even more exciting since last year we didn’t have all this from what I’m told, so people are just so thrilled to be able to experience this again and come in with a hope for the new year.” She said the student orientation team was “doing a fantastic job giving them what they need, directing them to their halls — they’re telling them “welcome home.”

Legacy

The traditional “legacy” photo on the Chapel steps for move-in day: Alumni bringing new students to St. Mike’s. Among the group are Michelle Fane-Cushing ‘94 and Colby Fane-Cushing ‘25; Lenny Frisoli ’91 and Thomas Frisoli ’25; Ben Filmore ’92 and Liv Filmore ’25; Leslie Kendall-Keith ’92 and Camden Keith ’25; Robert P. Glover ’90 and Lily Glover ’25.

 

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