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Lending a helping hand

Hundreds of members of the Lehigh community helped first-year students move into their residence halls.

A rainbow of colored shirts descended on the SUVs, minivans and sedans parked outside Dravo House and the other first-year housing residence halls as the university welcomed the 1,165 students in the incoming Class of 2011.

Green-clad students from community housing, including substance-free housing, lifted boxes of books beside fraternity brothers in yellow. Gryphons in blue, orientation leaders in black, and staff members in brown worked together to move in Lehigh’s newest students.

Lehigh President Alice P. Gast wore Lehigh brown as she carried boxes for first-year students. Move-in Day is a “wonderful day,” she says. “It’s exciting to welcome the new class of 2011 and great to see volunteers from the faculty, staff and students unloading the cars almost instantly.”

This efficiency impressed Lyle Kahle and her son, Nowell, an international relations major from the state of Washington. As they parked their car at Richards House, a gryphon immediately directed Kahle to the check-in and instructed staff and students to unload the car.

Once in his new large single room, Nowell’s gryphon, poked his head through the door and invited him to a hall pizza party that evening.

“Have you seen the movie Transformers?” John Powell ’10 asked. Kahle had not. “Then make sure you figure out who your character is by this evening,” John said, pointing a picture of a transformer taped on Kahle’s door.

Powell used the characters to divide his hall into two teams, the Autobots and the Decepticons. After last night’s pizza party, the teams were scheduled to compete in ice-breaking games and other activities. Powell looks forward to getting to know Kahle and the other first-year students on his hall. “I really like working with people,” he says, “and it really great to work with first-year students.”

“Pretty much effortless”

At another dorm, Maggie and John Suender of Cherry Hill, N.J., were unloading the family SUV when they turned around to face a camera crew from a local television station, on campus to film the move-in experience of a typical student such as their son, John.

Their son, a biology major who had considered Colgate and Cornell before deciding upon Lehigh, was also impressed at the efficiency of his move-in experience.

“These students just came over to our car and starting picking everything up and moved us in in no time,” he says. “It was pretty much effortless.”

His father was equally impressed by the ease of the entire registration process.

“It was remarkably smooth and well-organized, right from the start,” John Suender says.

Lori Bolden McClaind, the Assistant Dean of Student Life, and her office organize everything from an “I Forgot Shop” to the family-orientation program. Once the details are in place, “it nearly always feels calm on move-in day,” she says.

Part of this calmness is due to the many volunteers who assist, including Tim McGeary ’99, ’06G. Every year, McGeary deserts his post as senior library system specialist in Library and Technology Services to help. A recent knee injury prevented McGeary from lifting boxes, but instead he directed traffic behind Dravo House. “This is the best day of the year,” he says with a smile. “I enjoy helping the first-year students out.”

Working near the first-year dorms reminded McGeary of his first day in the A-2 hall in Dravo. After he graduated from Lehigh, McGeary worked at a few start-up companies, but soon returned to his alma mater. “I love the campus and the atmosphere,” he says.

Gryphons distributed flowers to first-year students to present to a parent or loved one who drove them to campus.

Like McGeary, Sharon Upton, another Lehigh staff member, enjoyed move-in day – especially working alongside upperclass students. “I don’t have a lot of interaction with the students, and today moving everyone was a delightful way to meet some,” she says.

Major Darin Mills and Captain Dave Vodarick from Lehigh’s ROTC office came to Dravo House expecting to sweat heavily while lifting boxes, but instead were “fighting to help unload,” says Mills. “We are impressed by the students’ willingness to help. They far surpassed my expectations.”

Some of the students Mills and Vodarick “fought” with unload cars were Jessica Rosen ’10 and Ashley Zoref ’10. They and their sorority sisters hoped to connect with the new students during the move-in process. “We thought it would be a good way to meet freshmen,” Ashley says. Jessica adds, “It helps them feel more welcome.”

Welcoming first years is exactly what Jeff Parris ’08 does as an orientation leader. During his first year, Jeff became good friends with his orientation leader. In fact, she inspired him to apply for the position the following year. For the past three years, Jeff, as an orientation leader, has led book discussions, orchestrated games, given college survival tips, and befriended first-year students. “We move them in, plan the kickoff celebration, and then teach them how to approach academics,” he says.

A former Dravo resident, Josh Kezele, ’10, volunteered with two groups helping with the move-in process, Reformed University Fellowship and Substance-Free Housing. “It was awesome not to have anything to move last year,” Kezele says. “I appreciated it a lot, so now I want to give back.”

Becky Straw

Photos by Theo Anderson

Posted on Friday, August 24, 2007

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