Summer Registration: The adventure begins

By: Mark Tarnacki
Students at registration

Some students came ready for overnight programs offered with Summer Registration Days

"We think of today as the first real academic activity of your college career," Associate Dean Jonathan D'Amore told incoming students who were on campus July 11 for the first of three Summer Registration Days.

About 150 more students each day are expected with their parents and families on Tuesday, July 15 and Friday, July 18. Each day is broken into a morning and afternoon session of 75 students each. Though many incoming students are unable to make any of these Summer Registration Days, which are optional and free, the college makes every effort to provide such students a comparably thorough personal connection with faculty advisers and student life staff by phone or email, or during regular orientation at fall semester's start. Attending a Summer Registration Day does not increase or decrease the chances of getting into a particular course.

However, Summer Registration Day attendees have the extra opportunity to:

  • Hear an overview, in person, of the Saint Michael's educational philosophy from deans and faculty.
  • Meet his or her faculty-entrance adviser personally to begin academic planning and to select courses for fall semester.
  • Meet current students and staff to learn about out-of-the-classroom experiences and put names to faces, in order to make a real human connection with key figures for the coming four years who can help assure each experience is the best it can be.
  • Take a second-language written placement exam, for those who wish to.

"It's an exciting time - your 'first first' as a Saint Michael's student," D'Amore said as he welcomed the afternoon group in the third-floor Roy Event Room of the new Dion Family Student Center, as he had done earlier that day for the morning group. "It's an exciting time for us, and for parents and students, to think about transitions in our lives, to think about getting started on a new venture … and to think about what's happening in your life, about how important you are to one another." He suggested that students and family members together read this year's "Common Text" for all first-years, the coming-of-age short-story Sonny's Blues by the great American author James Baldwin.

After his remarks, D'Amore led students-only over to the academic buildings for meetings with "faculty entrance advisers" so they could register for classes in the computer labs. Their parents stayed behind to hear short presentations and to ask questions on topics of general interest: athletics, public safety, health care, volunteerism, spiritual life, work-study, financial services, academic support services, technology and special computer deals, and even dorm-room logistics like sheet-sizes or lofts, along with the all-important student ID cards, which, as the KnightCard Office Director Liz Jackson reminded them, offer students access to buildings, meals and funds, but also serve as a bus pass, library card and laundry ticket.

Based on feedback from past years, Academic Affairs leaders decided to pre-register each student in a course or two that he or she surely will need to take, based on a student's answers to "academic profile" forms that they filled out in June after committing to Saint Michael's.

"If they declared a major, we made sure every student had one course in their major," explained Karen Talentino, vice president for academic affairs. "If it's science, they're already registered in biology and chemistry, if they needed math, they're already enrolled in that. A physics major needs Calculus III and physics, or if it's an English major, they need English 110 – they can always change their schedule, but we try to anticipate their needs as much as possible." She noted how it was a response to feedback from past registrations in the hope of alleviating some stress and anxiety for students.

Megan Ohler panel

In Dion Family Student Center's Roy Event room, Megan Ohler introduces a panel to tell parents of new students about different aspects of Saint Michael's campus life.

"The main point of these days is to facilitate connections and relationships," said Megan Ohler, director of new and sophomore student programs and associate dean in the Student Life Office, who was pleased at how well the first Summer Registration Day went. "We've heard nothing but good things about both the student and family experience."

Particularly popular this year has been a hot-dog cookout with soda and ice cream from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in St. Anne's Courtyard between Dion and Alliot Hall for the visitors, arranged by Lou DiMasi, director of student life/assistant dean of students, with all donations going to the MOVE volunteer service office. Both MOVE students and student life staff helped with grilling and food service. "Lots of  administration and faculty and students already on campus showed up, so we saw a lot of casual conversation that was very useful," Ohler said.

Of  the students attending a Summer Registration day, about 90 also are taking advantage of  "Summer Optional Programs" coinciding with the days in order to save families a special trip, sponsored by different college offices: POW (Pre-Orientation Weekend), WOW (Wilderness Orientation Weekend), a Community Service weekend, a "Knight Overnight," or SOAR (Summer Orientation for Academic Retention). Some of these programs occurred/are occurring on campus, while others such as Wilderness might have overnight camping, while POW students head to St. Anne's Shrine in the Champlain Islands.

For all the programs, Ohler said, "we'll be talking about transitioning to college and introducing them to other faculty, staff and other students to ease the transition, meet some friendly faces on campus, meet some peers, and also just have exposure to campus and what outside-campus has to offer." Incoming students also enjoy hearing tips and recommendations from experienced students about life at Saint Michael's through these programs, she said.

Both the Dean of the College Jeffrey Ayres and Associate Athletics Director Chris Kenny shared with parents during the information session that they, too, had children starting college this year, so they related directly to the emotions that everybody was experiencing. Kenny said his daughter even is a member of the Saint Michael's class of 2018.

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