They came to South Mountain from 33 countries, three territories and 46 states, arriving under threatening skies on the morning of Thursday, August 22. And as their fluffy new comforters, flat-screen TVs and laptops found their way out of their cars and SUVS and into their first-year residence halls, the newest members of the university family got an early taste of Lehigh hospitality.
“It was like checking into a great hotel,” said Marina Campanale, who traveled from Manalapan, N.J., with her husband, Anthony, to help their son, Anthony, move into a surprisingly spacious room in Dravo. “It was excellent , very smooth -- a very warm welcome.”
It was a similar experience for Benjamin Seiler of Mansfield, Mass., who moved into Centennial II with the aid of several staff and faculty who pitched in to unload his belongings. “Perfect, wonderful,” said his mom, Tina, as the family made its way to the campus bookstore.
For the family of James Mannherz of Foxborough, Mass., though, the Move-In experience was nothing new. An older sister, Erin, graduated from Lehigh in 2008 and was able to give her little brother packing pointers. His father, Rich, is a 1981 graduate and his uncle, Walter Mannherz, is a graduate of the Class of 1957, and will be carrying the banner for that class as it “adopts” the Class of 2017 at Saturday night’s traditional First Year Rally.
“What’s that expression? Many hands make light work?” Rich Mannherz asked. “It all went very well.”
It was a sentiment expressed repeatedly by parents of new students who were greeted by hundreds of M.O.O.V. (Made Of Our Volunteers) representatives: staff and faculty who donated a few hours of their time to help the families unload their belongings, greet them on campus or provide information.
For MOOV volunteer Jean Nonnemaker, the pleasure was all hers.
“It’s very fulfilling,” the senior analyst in LTS Enterprise Systems said. “I’ve been doing this 10 years or so, and it’s a great way to meet the students, make them feel at home. They’re the reason why we’re all here.”
Once the students were settled into their new rooms, an array of activities awaited them. In addition to the luncheon served on Library Drive and the I Forgot Shop that was relocated to the Campus Bookstore after morning showers, there were educational sessions on campus safety, financial aid student life, academic support, fraternities and sororities and even an educational session on ornithological works in Lehigh’s Special Collections.
Over the course of a four-day orientation organized by the Office of the First Year Experience (OFYE), new students will attend meetings in their res halls and sessions with their advisors, a carnival on the UC lawn, a Culture Fest dinner, a Casino Night in Lamberton Hall, and a night of entertainment at SteelStacks on Bethlehem’s South Side.
Words of wisdom
Later in the afternoon, students and parents filled the pews and lined the walls of Packer Memorial Church to hear Lehigh President Alice P. Gast outline expectations for Lehigh students.
Today, she said, should be the “end of the rat race,” or “the obsession with getting in to a ‘top’ school.” Their sons and daughters have already run that race – and won.
“Now is the time for your students to find their passion, the time to break away from the incessant race for grades, scores and things that look good on a college application. Now is the time for them to take risks, to try something new, to learn and to discover. This is at the heart of a meaningful and productive college education.”
Acknowledging that it’s not often easy to break the entrenched habits of resume-building, Gast said parents should encourage their students to cultivate habits of continuous inquiry and immersion in an environment of vibrant, creative exchange.
She cited numerous Lehigh programs that help transform good students into exceptional thinkers, including the Integrated Product Development program, Iacocca Internships, a multitude of performance opportunities and entrepreneurship options.
As the parent of a college student and high school senior, Gast said she is well aware of the range of emotions the parents must be experiencing as they leave their son or daughter and head home without them.
“Today is one of those letting go moments,” she said. “Today your daughters and sons are getting the license to drive their lives toward their destinies. They are no longer children. You need to trust them as they set out along that road.”
Over the course of the next four years, Gast said, the members of the Class of 2017 will broaden their horizons, grow as individuals and find their passion.
“They will evolve from students focused on grades to thinkers focused on solutions. The rat race is over, they are in the driver’s seat, and they will steer just fine.”
Gast was introduced by John Smeaton, vice provost for Student Affairs, who told parents that this day begins a “very special and exciting journey” for their students.
“Along the way,” he said, “there will be many challenges and opportunities in all dimensions of their lives. Although the route – and in some cases, even the destination – may not always be clear, one thing is for sure: They do not go down the path alone.”
Smeaton asked parents to encourage their students to take advantage of a wide range of resources, services and activities available to them at Lehigh. “We take pride in our commitment to integrate the full educational experience both in and outside the classroom,” he said.
He also noted the dangers of alcohol abuse, a pervasive problem on college campuses across the country. Last year, he said, Lehigh took measures to reduce the use of hard alcohol and introduced Lehigh After Dark, a program that offers safe and appealing social options that do not focus on alcohol. More than 4,000 students attended more than 40 different Lehigh After Dark events over the course of the last academic year.
“We need your sons and daughters to do their part by exercising good judgment and common sense in their social lives,” said Smeaton in seeking the parents’ support in reinforcing this message.
Following Gast’s address, the students and families said their final farewells during a reception on Karakash Plaza.