Move-in Day brings new energy and stirs nostalgia

By: Mark Tarnacki
Students moving in

"O-leaders" help with the big-ticket items on Move-in day August 29

Even refrigerators and big-screen TV's were making it with relative ease up multiple flights of stairs in  Saint Michael's College's first-year Quad dorms all morning on Move-In Day, Friday, August 29, thanks to gangs of efficient, energetic and whistle-blowing Orientation leaders in red t-shirts.

The "O-leaders," older current students, greeted each arrival with a bright, can-do attitude, unpacking their belongings in a whirlwind of teamwork as they carried everything to rooms in a matter of minutes. With widened sidewalks and a circular traffic pattern that proved optimal last year, vehicles came and went smoothly under direction of campus public safety officers.

But in the early afternoon when a vehicle hauling a good-sized boat rounded the corner to deliver new student David Clemmer'18 of Yarmouth, Maine, some nervous laughs rippled among the unpacking crew, who joked that they hoped it wasn't going to the fourth floor. Not to worry, said David's dad, Steve, once he'd parked beside Lyons Hall. He and his wife were planning an outing in Lake Champlain with friends after the move-in, so he'd brought the red-and-white motorboat along but wouldn't be dropping it off.

Steve said his son was rooming with an old childhood neighborhood pal, Christian Boisvert '18 of Acton, MA, whose parents, Larry '84 and Erin '85, are both Saint Michael's graduates. "Another connection we had was that my best friend from Minnesota where I grew up, Jerry Mullin, is here bringing his daughter too -- Cecelia Mullin '18. They drove out yesterday and so I'm excited to see him." Pulling a hockey stick from the trailer, Steve said that both David and Christian are hockey players who hope to find some outlet to play as students.

Scores more alumni parents dropping off first-years had a group photo on the Chapel steps Friday afternoon, including Chris Kenny, the college's senior associate director of athletics, who was with his daughter Jillian. "It's funny -- this is maybe my 28th time being around for an opening but my first as a parent. I'm so happy Jillian has decided to attend Saint Mike's," said Kenny, who recalled his own first arrival as a transfer in January of 1984 on a brutally cold day -- a sharp contrast with the sunny warmth greeting Jillian.

Jerry Flanagan '71, retired longtime enrollment VP and now a fund-raiser for the college, was on hand to watch the photo, though technically still on vacation. "How could you miss the excitement of the new students?!" he said. "It feels a little strange that this is the first year they're not ‘my' class of recruits, but I'm really excited." His remembered arriving in 1967 to move into a triple in Alumni Hall, and his mom couldn't even come in since it was "men-only," making her sad she couldn't help make up his bed. "But my dad said, 'I think he can manage!'" he remembered, smiling.

Another campus fixture, former dean of students and now peer tutoring director and campus minister Mike Samara, watched early arrivals around 9 a.m. He said he'd led a prayer for Resident Assistants the previous night focused on gratitude and the need to express it as much as possible. "There's a lot of love and support around here if you run into trials," said Samara, who welcomed 35 new classes to Saint Michael's between 1977 and 2012. "It's lovely being here in more a support capacity as opposed to the worry that came with the other position."

Jessica Schofield from Center Harbor, NH, was moving into Joyce with help from her dad, Dennis, who said he knew the drill from bringing Jessica's older sister to another college. "I told her, ‘Jess, you brought way too much stuff,' but next year it will be reduced," said Dennis, who explained how they'd met her roommate already in July at orientation. "Everybody we met that day was awesome. Jessica plans to major in modern languages and has met and likes her adviser already," he said, adding, "Everyone who talks about Saint Mike's is just over the top with it - they're dedicated Saint Mike's disciples, and I hope the experience is the same for her."

At the Ross Sports Center, Sarah Kelly, vice president for enrollment and marketing, stood by the admissions table, one of many stations there to promote assorted programs to new students and families picking up their informational packets. "We're enjoying watching the fruits of our labor arrive on campus and reconnecting with people we've worked hard to get here, seeing familiar faces. It's very exciting," Kelly said. "And we have lots of customers because we have all the free stuff!" She pointed to pennants, glasses and other Saint Michael's paraphernalia.

The Society of Saint Edmund was out in force too, talking about their role at the college, including Deacon Lino Oropeza, who will be ordained this winter. "We're just here to tell them who we are and hopefully one of the kids will find a vocation and decide to join!" he said.  Added Music Minister Jerome Monachino, "I ask them what instruments they play and try to explain Campus Ministry."

Dawn Ellinwood, vice president for student affairs, said "It's going to be a great year - great day, great year! I just talked to a family whose son has transferred in, two alums, so they're over the moon right now that he's here!"

Carlos Vega, assistant director of admission for multicultural enrollment, said Move-In-Day "is my Christmas, and my favorite part of that is meeting the families." He explained how his closest recruiting territory is six hours away, "so they bring everyone along -- little brothers and sisters, aunts or uncles, and we sit and enjoy the families over lunch as they trickle in, and I go from table to table."  

Other groups set up in Ross all day were Information Technology, Student Financial Services, Payroll and Work Study, Colchester Police, UVM ROTC, Multicultural Student Affairs, the Cultural Pass, Intramurals, the Wilderness Program,  Family Programs, Student Health Services, and others. Sodexo staff served bagels, doughnuts and coffee.

The chief initial greeters at the main entrance by the bus stop yelled to cars turning onto campus for the first time. They'd been out since 8 a.m. but still weren't tired, they said, and would switch with others at lunch time. "We've got water, we've got jelly beans -- we're O-leaders, this is what we live for!" said Gabi Milano '15 from Sandy Hook CT, a psychology major. Junior Nathan Taylor of Farmington, CT, a double major in business and art, said he worked with the "O- Board" last year and had a blast, so he came back this year and wants to do it again as a senior. "This is the best!" he said as passing cars and tractor-trailers on Route 15 honked their horns and his cohort whistled back..

Professors were out and about too. Valerie Bang-Jensen of education and Mark Lubkowitz of biology were on their way to look at stones that had just arrived for a wall-building project in the Teaching Gardens they'll be part of in the next few weeks. "I look at every student and wonder, ‘will he or she be in my class?'" Bang-Jensen said. "I love the whistles!" said Lubkowitz, ever a highly-charged personality himself. Later in the afternoon, President Jack Neuhauser walked about talking to students and parents, who thanked him for stopping and chatting and for how well everything was going.

New Student Convocation 2014The evening New Student Assembly in the chapel was packed - each seat occupied by students or parents, with robed faculty in front around the altar space. Students and faculty took formal pledges to respect the privilege and obligation each has to the other, and Director of Admission Jacki Murphy "handed off the class" ceremonially to the new Dean of the College Jeffrey Ayres. Everybody learned and sang the Alma Mater led by Music Professor Nathaniel Lew, accompanied by colleague Susan Summerfield on organ. Speakers included Student Association President Brendan Long '15, who shared how his dad was from the Class of '77 and his sister a fellow member of the class of '15. "Your good choices brought you here,' he said, urging everyone to explore and set aside fear. "I see Knights here!" he said. "You've already taken the most difficult step toward success, so ask yourself, what's one more?!"

Peter Tumulty, winner of the Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award last year and a veteran philosophy professor of 40-plus years, also addressed the class, offering "points of reassurance." "Pay attention to your mind … This is your growth point," he said, reminding them that "because you're a person, you have a unique personal relationship with the truth. We're the only animal on this planet who has that kind of personal relationship." And, "You are free to make the truth available to us by deciding to become who you are -- a truthful, sincere human being …" and he exhorted them not to betray their true selves.

President Jack Neuhauser said the adventure of college, particularly at Saint Michael's, "is about a deeper discernment" and "part of a gamble each generation takes. With a little luck, some hard work and an open mind, the next four years will be a grand experience … one of the few that can change the course of a life … but only if you let it."

By later Saturday, following the 4 p.m. new student Mass with parents, most families had made emotional farewells - some could be seen choking up and hugging during the service - and the "grand experience" had begun.

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