Rain can’t dampen traditional spirit as Class of ’26 moves in

August 26, 2022
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
o leaders

O Leaders welcome new arrivals Friday. (All photos by Patrick Bohan.)

View a photo gallery from Move-In Day 2022>>

Fall semester 2022 is officially under way at Saint Michael’s College with Friday’s arrival of first-year students from the Class of 2026 for Move-In Day. Returning students move back this weekend and classes start on Monday.

It was the typically happy if mildly chaotic scene in the main first-year Quad residences beginning at about 9 a.m. Friday as families with plates from states near and far pulled in at scheduled times, avoiding the challenging early rush of past years.

Orientation Leaders enthusiastically and efficiently helped schlep belongings up to new rooms. Groups of “O-Leaders” set up shop at the College’s main gates as families pulled onto campus, which is a longstanding tradition. Years ago, they would blow whistles as many older alumni remembered, but now, in the interest of being a degree less shrill on a potentially anxious day for many, they ring cowbells, wave signs and shout enthusiastic welcomes.

Passing motorists honked regularly at the greeters. Rain mostly held off the first couple overcast hours before turning steadier mid-day. Thunder and heavier downpours came in the afternoon shortly after 3 p.m., but by then at least a majority of families had moved in.

Dion Family Student Center was the place for families to stop in first so they could pick up room keys for arriving new students while connecting with a variety of campus organizations that had set up displays to make themselves and their offerings known.

Friday evening was to be the traditional New Student Convocation in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel. Student life officials, faculty and staff were making the rounds to most of Friday’s major activities to join in the community’s warm welcome for the new class.

Here are some snapshots from a walk around campus on Move-In day 2022:

V and L

Vernita Weller and Lou DiMasi outside the new Purposeful Learning Office.

Vernita Weller and Lou DiMasi set up shop outside the new Purposeful Learning Office on the first floor of Joyce Hall where they are student success advisors, in what will be a pillar of academic and student life this year. DiMasi, long a beloved campus figure in the Student Life Office, is back in the new role this fall and in good spirits. “It’s all good,” he said, trotting out his signature phrase of old.

Weller worked in Admission last year before starting her new success advisor position, and already has connected with 47 students as summer advisor in recent months. Of this, her second move-in day, she said, “Last year was difficult with COVID, but this year everybody is on-board, charged up and psyched to just engage at the most over-the-top level of excitement.” She had just returned from a visit inside the residential halls. “The music is blasting and they’re running in and out. I just love O leaders and can’t say enough about the job they do and the energy they bring,” Weller said. “Families are super-excited this year and feeling so much better about leaving their students here, and we’re making it clear that we’re going to take care of them.”

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At the main College entrance near the bus stop not far from Ross Sports Center, a group of eight lively O-leaders rang cowbells, waved signs, played recorded music loud, and had purple and gold glitter on their faces for the women, with all wearing themed matching t-shirts. “Slaying,” said Ella Saracco of Melrose, MA, a senior business major and first time O leader, when asked how it was going at about 9:30 a.m., “We’ll be busy the whole weekend and we’re out here today till 2:30 p.m.” Aisha Navarrete from southern Vermont, senior international relations major minoring in environmental studies and Spanish, said, “I’m SO happy to be here – my voice is going to have to hold up through Sunday, we’ll see!” Aidan Gay-Killeen, an environmental studies major from Rowley, MA, a junior, and first time O leader, said, “I think my class was 2020 coming in during the pandemic so we, didn’t have full orientation, so I wanted to see it all play out.”

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“So far so good” was the assessment of Jeff Vincent, a veteran Student Life Office leader as director of residential life and community standards about an hour into the move-in in the first-year Quad. He noted how Kayla Root ‘22, one of his resident directors pitching in that morning, is a recent psychology graduate from the College now pursuing her master’s in clinical psychology.

Hallway

Inside residence halls, unpacked items piled up outside rooms fast Friday morning.

“This year we have them start by going through Dion, get some coffee and a packet and come through to get keys and then move into Lyons and Alumni Hall and a handful of suites as well,” said Vincent. He expected traffic to pick in the quad as more families arrived after same-day morning departures around New England. “Today going smoothly is all about O leaders and residence life staff, they’re doing an amazing job,” he said of the more than 50 O leaders under his direction. Nearby, Vermont Loft and Futon had a tent and table for families interested in their services to upgrade rooms.

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At the Dion Family Student Center entrance, a team from the Admission office included Admission Director Allison Sherlock and counselors Sullivan Miele ’20 and Hannah Roque ’21. Said Sherlock,” today is the best day of the year since we work really hard all year for Move-In day and it’s the day we get to see their smiling faces on campus.” All three said it was fun to say hi to families in person since they know names but in many cases have not met in person. “In some cases we’ve known them three years or more,” Sherlock said. “We check them off as they arrive, they pick up an Orientation Packet and schedule and self-guided tour, meet with lots of offices and grab keys and then move in, and they’re here!” “Sully” said his move-in from Ludlow, VT, in 2016 was a gorgeous day and, as a “wicked extrovert,” he loved all the activity. *

Farther along on Dion’s first floor, with tables set up along two sides of the main first floor corridor for different offices, Diane Corbett, the College’s financial aid director, said families already had stopped by their table. “We’re thrilled to see them – one family handed in a scholarship check, saving a stop in the office. We just plan to explain the process and be a friendly face so if they need us in the future they know where to go,” she said.

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Sasha Keck and Rene Davitt of the Student Employment said their task was simply to help arriving students find prospective employment on campus. “We talk about how to navigate the recruiting platform, where to find assistance, and just try to welcome them to campus while helping to remove their fear of finding a job,” Keck said.

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Michael DesRosiers, assistant director for the campus Office of Public Safety, said a few families had stopped by his office’s table, and he and his crew were pleased to report no trouble, making for a smooth start to the day with traffic patterns well thought out and “everything flowing well.”

teamwork

Teamwork gets the job done with a refrigerator.

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“The gang’s all here,” said the College’s Director of Athletics Chris Kenny ’86 as he sat alongside an assortment of coaches and other staff from his department at a long couple of tables. “We’re here to put a face on our department and welcome all our new students to campus. It’s an exciting day – like Opening Day in baseball!,” said Kenny, who remembered that his own move-in was such a long time ago, yet he recalls the mix of emotions that comes with it. “My first dorm here was Joyce Hall and my old room has been converted to a faculty office for [Spanish] Professor Pachman, so sometimes I stop by and tell her she’s done a nice job with my old room!”

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Kyle Redding of the Information Technology Office said he had just had a handful of general questions so far. “We’re helping them get on the Wi-Fi but generally trying to keep it simple here – if somebody has a more complicated question we’ll send them to the help desk. One guy just needed to know where to get his Knight card!”

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Sydney Rybicki ’18 of the Alumni and Parent Engagement Office under Institutional Advancement, said that she “had some parents stopping to pick up some swag” like stickers, pens and copies of the recent College magazine. “They’re just so proud to be a St. Mike’s parent and part of the St. Mike’s community.”  Rybicki daid Move in Day is of course about the first-year students coming in, “but it’s also about the parents and families and siblings and aunts and uncles who are all here, even grandparents who are joining our St. Mike’s community.” She recalled arriving to Joyce Hall in 2014 from Byfield, MA. “I ended up here since my dad went here, and it was emotional for everyone that day. It’s a moving time for them in more ways than one.”

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Anna Lester ’98 M’11 is moving on from Campus Ministry after nearly 18 years over to a new job in Admission, but was still helping explain Campus Ministry programs since she will not start the new post until Sept. 6. “Today we’re just welcoming students introducing them to Campus Ministry and all programs we offer,” she said. “We’re excited to get them engaged and ready for the upcoming semester.” Her new work in Admission will use data management skills she developed after her long-ago graduation in ‘98. Her own move-in day made her “nervous, overwhelmed and exited all at once” as she settled onto fourth floor Lyons, she recalled.

cute smiler

Heavy laden but happy on Move In Day.

Music minister Jerome Monachino ’91 said he was recruiting for his Liturgical Ensemble that lost several seniors to graduation last year, but he will welcome “at least five new students. “I’m excited because we have a scholarship offer this year from Campus Ministry which is nice.” He has already met most of his incoming students online. Monachino, a high-level guitar player who performs jazz and other styles around the area, recalls from his own 1987 move-in very little – only “grabbing my amp and putting it in a corner of the room and shoving my guitar under the bed and I felt then I was moved in.”

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Sarah Hammitt of the Windjammer Hotel said since they just had signed on as a preferred hotel for St. Mike’s Athletics, “We’re here to offer rate information for incoming parents. We had a lot stay with us last night.”

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Outside Alumni Hall, Olivia Politi ’23, a biology major from Willsboro, NY, said she was an O leader last year, but this year is on the Orientation Executive Board. “I couldn’t think of a better way to end it she said as she readied to unload an arriving car, perhaps already the 10th family she and her team had helped in the first hour. “Every car that comes in we hope they don’t have to carry a thing up – I’m getting a workout going up and down steps but it’s OK, we’re more than happy to help, it’s so fun!” Some rain started to drizzle right then but a fellow O leader kept it positive when he called out “It’s not so bad!”

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New student Colin Burke of Amherst, NH, arrived with his family to move into Alumni 301, and had just met his roommate, reporting, “It’s good.” He is mainly interested in studying business but is undecided. “I want to find out what I want to do still,” he said. Colin is on the Purple Knights baseball team, for which he will play third base and pitch. His step-dad John Anderson said they drove over from New Hampshire this morning but will stay over Friday night. “You can’t beat all these helpers when we got here, and we also brought some family along to help,” he said.

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Sarah Gardella pulled in with her family from Hamden, ME – they stayed over in the Burlington area last night since they had a bit of a trek from Maine. “I’ve been to Burlington just a couple times, but I love the area since I horseback ride around her sometimes — that’s what inspired me to come here,” she said, adding that she  might major in social sciences or criminal justice, sociology, or “anything with law,” given her career interests. She also has keen interest in social justice projects on campus. “I love the community around here and I’m excited,” said Sarah. Helping her were her dad, Ed Gardella, mom Cindy and sister Rachel.

Rachel is a student at St. Joseph College in Maine, while an oldest sibling is at St. Anselm in New Hampshire. “She’s the baby of the family and the one that’s gone farthest way, but we’re really happy with this campus,” said mom. “Everything is nicely organized and I love seeing all the students helping out. Hopefully Sarah can help out next time.” Cindy said her daughter “was always kind of interested in coming to school in Vermont since she came to a few horse shows in Vermont and loved the atmosphere.”

carrying message

A banner carries the message Friday morning on campus.

After joking unconvincingly that the day was not emotional for him and that “we’re glad to get rid of her!” her good-natured dad said social justice activism was perhaps his daughter’s strongest draw to St. Mike’s along with an interest in ecology and the environment. Mom, a psychology professor at the University of Maine in Orono, said it was good to arrive a bit ahead of the yet unmet roommate so that Sarah could settle some things in first and not be in the way. The two have connected online, and know they will have a class together. The Gardellas said they plan to stay for the New Student Convocation Friday evening and head back the next day to Maine. “We’re moving Rachel in at St. Joseph Sunday and Maine is starting up for me too, so we’ll all be starting classes on Monday morning,” said Cindy.

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The Edwards family led by dad and mom Michael and Terry was arriving from Centerville on Cape Cod (MA) with daughter Ryan, moving into Lyons Hall Room 257 after staying over on the way last night. They all already had met roommate Hazel “and we are getting along really well,” said Ryan, who might major in political science, “on a pre-law track I think.” She looks forward to joining campus clubs, perhaps Mock Trial. “I look forward to seeing what’s here for me,” she said.

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Cars arriving between Alliot and Dion on the sidewalks started backing up just a bit around 10 a.m. but O leaders were more than ready to help with directions. Cameron Michael, a junior education studies and equity studies double major from Durham, NH, and Amy Hylen, a sophomore elementary education, psychology and philosophy major from Canton, MA, said each would take a group of new arrivals afterward to show them around campus. “It’s the best kind of busy,” said Amy. “We tell them where to drive and offer a friendly face,” said Cameron.

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In the Saint Michael’s Campus Store in Alliot Hall, popular longtime friendly employee Paula Gratton said she loves to meet all the new people “and know we’re going to be friends for four years.” The store has stocked “a lot of new stuff, and everyone is so excited to get new gear to show off and be proud of their son or daughter’s school” Also, she said, books have arrived, so first-years can be ready for Monday classes.

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Back on the quad after 10 a.m., new student, Marissa Quinn, from Chelmsford, MA explained the Iowa plate on her van as just being a rented minivan since her own car is so small. She left with family and neighbors who are “like family” from Massachusetts this morning and drove up. She said she and her roommate on Lyons second floor have talked already and the roommate talked a lot about rugby “so I think I’m going to do that” even though she has never played. Marissa, who hopes to major in psychology, said she was glad the rain was holding out so far.

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Professor Declan McCabe of the biology faculty was out and about, saying, “I like the energy from the students, so I have to come out and walk around. I was sick and tired of writing my syllabus that has to be ready for Monday, but Monday will come and the syllabus will be ready but the energy is important to get while it’s fresh.”

He said already he had “arbitrarily harassed” some new students and asked them how they are doing while trying to reduce their stress a little, “because as much as they’re energetic, they’re also a little stressed and their parents re particularly.” He so far had talked with a history major and education major and “we had an interesting conversation.” McCabe was looking forward to processing with fellow faculty Friday evening at the New Student Convocation in full academic regalia, after he accidentally came yesterday for it  before realizing he had the wrong day. “Luckily I didn’t put on the regalia!” he said.

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Ken O’Connell, director of military community enrollment, was walking around checking on some transfer students along with others from military families. “I’m filling people in on GI Benefits and running up and down stairs since I just like to check on them when they are moving into the rooms. He said one incoming student he knows of is a Navy veteran who is not living on campus. Beyond just his military cohort, though, “I’m here for anybody joining the Saint Michael’s community. I just try to open up as many opportunities on campus as I can since everybody has to find where their niche is.”

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During a brief New Student Convocation in the Chapel that lasted barely more than half an hour, faculty processed in wearing full academic regalia as members of the first-year class gathered in the main area of the chapel, with parents in the side pews along with some College officials and staff. Celia Asbell, organist, played Prelude to Te Deum by Charpentier for the processiona, and March from Scipione by Handel for the recessional, led out by the members of the class with the first and last names alphabetically holding high a banner.

For the program in between, Jeffrey Trumbower, vice president for Academic Affairs, called the assembly to order, telling students that this ceremony and their Commencement can be seen as “ceremonial book ends” to their Saint Michael’s experiences. Fr. Brian Cummings S.S.E. ’86, gave the invocation, reading a famous passage from the late monk and author Thomas Merton about wanting to do the will of God.

Kelechi

Kelechi Onuoha ’23 inspires and fires up the new Class of 2026 Friday evening in the chapel.

Kelechi (KC) Onuoha ’23, president of the Student Association told the new class that “College is all about choices.” She asked shows of hands on who had done various activities in high school, then asked, “who do you want to become?” She warned that some choices seem good at first blush but turn out to be bad, so she encouraged vigilance against bad choices in College. She urged them to allow mentors to guide them as voices of reason. “How will you write your story?” she asked. “Be present show up and show out!”

Carolyn Lukens-Olsen, professor of classical & modern languages & literature: Spanish, and the 2021 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award recipient, then delivered a brief but elegant speech built around three stories — the first about a Spanish count who sees a galleon out in the sea, hears a beautiful song that calms the sea, and so asks to learn the song, but the sailor who sang it says “I only teach the song to those who come with me.”

clo

Carolyn Lukens-Olson tells three inspiring stories.

The second story told of a young man who finds a book about Greek philosophers while walking one day through the streets of New York City, is enchanted by what he finds, and that becomes Roosevelt Montas’ invitation to the liberal arts and a path to a Columbia professorship and eventually authoring Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation.  

The third story was of Saint Michael’s Graduate and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy ’61, and how encountering Edmund Burke while a student of Professor Ed Pfeiffer while at Saint Michael’s s set him on his course of distinguished public service, as recounted in the recently published Leahy memoir “The Road Taken” based on a Frost poem that was first read by Leahy in a book taken out of the Montpelier Public Library in his youth. The stories illustrate for students that “your four years here are an invitation” — exciting, though they must go with their best efforts. “The next stories are yours,” she concluded.

Next, Gretchen Galbraith, the new dean of faculty, and Kristin McAndrew, vice president for enrollment & marketing, ceremonially passed the class from admission to academics and had new students recite the College’s Academic Pledge. Four students then sang the Saint Michael’s Alma Mater “Hail, Saint Michael’s” so the new arrivals might start to learn it.

Campus Minister Anna Lester ’98 led the blessing of the class accompanied by her fellow campus ministers on the altar.

class photo

The official Class photo for the newly arrived Class of 2026 in front of Durick Library

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