Move-In Day for Lehigh’s 156th class couldn’t have been a more perfect day weather-wise, with low humidity and temperatures in the low- to mid-70s for much of the day Thursday.
About 1,000 first-year students converged on South Mountain and checked in under cloudless skies. Approximately 900 students and 300 faculty and staff members serving as MOOV (Made of Our Volunteers) representatives were on hand to answer questions, direct traffic and assist in unloading cars and packing dorm rooms with students’ belongings.
The members of the Class of 2022 represent 44 U.S. states—nearly 80 students from California—and 43 international countries and territories. The nine new countries represented are Montenegro, Macedonia, Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Costa Rica, Finland, Peru, Ukraine and Guyana.
As first-year students pulled up to their new home for the next four years with their parents, volunteers swarmed vehicles chanting “Pop that trunk!” The first-year students’ room numbers were called out and a streaming line of volunteers carrying everything from televisions to storage bins and IKEA bags filled with bed sheets flowed into the dorms. Music blared outside many of the dorm buildings, and student-volunteers welcomed their new classmates with chants of their names.
“The energy, you really feel the energy,” Jenny Vonfeldt said as she dropped her son Will Kieselstein ‘22 off outside McClintic Marshall.
Her husband, David Kieselstein, agreed.
“Check-in took a few minutes, and then we showed up here to move in and a swarm of really happy, smiling volunteers showed up and basically took everything in about 30 seconds,” David said. “So really impressed. Great energy.”
Their son was just as thrilled.
“It’s been really welcoming,” Will said. “Everyone has a smile on their face, everyone has been super nice. It’s just perfect. It’s not really an anxious atmosphere at all. Everyone is just loud and energetic and fun.”
This wasn’t the first Lehigh Move-In experience for Jamie Hicks, who went through the process with her daughter Jessica ‘19, but she was even more impressed this time around helping her her son Dylan ‘22 move in.
“Everything is so easy,” Hicks said. “The help was amazing. I wonder if every college does that because in my mind I’m like, ‘How are we going to do this? It’s going to be all day.’ I really thought that.”
While many were students and parents were excited about the new adventure beginning, there were still some nerves.
Summit Wallace ‘22, traveled across the country to begin his Lehigh experience, which led to some slight anxiety.
“It’s been exciting,” Wallace, who is from Boulder, Co., said. “I’m a little nervous just because I’m kind of far from home. But more excited than nervous.”
But Wallace had his grandfather, Dana Wallace, along to help things go smoothly.
“I’ve moved four kids in [at other schools], this is the first grandson,” Dana said. “I helped him get settled and am trying to help him with all the typical freshman anxieties of moving in.”
After students put the finishing touches on their new homes for the academic year, they were able to pick up any items left at home from the I Forgot Shop, take campus tours and enjoy lunch with their families on the University Center Front Lawn. The first day of fun wraps up with the students’ first residence hall floor meeting. They can follow it up with the residence hall rally, where they bond with all the residents in their community and learn about Hall Wars, a competition where residence halls earn points from events facilitated by the Residence Hall Councils held throughout the academic year.
Orientation activities will continue through Sunday, with events arranged through the Office of the First-Year Experience. Lehigh After Dark, which offers students alcohol-free social options on weekend throughout the academic year, will host two events. Friday at 10 p.m. on the UC Front Lawn they’ll show Avengers: Infinity War, and Saturday, from 8:30 p.m. to midnight at Zoellner Arts Center, The Second City, an improv comedy troupe, will perform.
While first-year students were moving into their door rooms at Lehigh for the first time Thursday, a number already had a sense of life at the university. They had the opportunity to have many of their questions answered, and worries quelled.
Through the Mentor Collective at Lehigh, which is in its first year, 629 first-year students signed up for a mentor to help them get acclimated to life on campus before even arriving. Of those, 90 are international and 186 are first-generation college students. To aid these incoming students, 290 upperclass students signed up to be mentors.
Once students were accepted and confirmed intent to attend Lehigh, they received an email offering to match them up with a mentor to provide a “head start.” A survey helped pair incoming students with a mentor.
Beginning over the summer, mentor pairs had regular meetings through social media.
Steven Escobar-Mendez ‘22, believes correspondence with his mentor, Jamal Connelly ‘19, a triple major, this summer aided in preparing him for Lehigh.
“His schedule for the upcoming year has helped me better understand the level of learning I will be approaching,” Escobar-Mendez says. “Through email we have talked about things such as majors and how to achieve it—whether it be one or more— outside academics such as the types of clubs available on campus, classes with cost, as in knowing the cost being placed in education, how I may better take advantage of the opportunity and what it feels like to be a first-generation college student.”
Not only were new students able to have their questions answered by upperclassmen, those concerned about succeeding can be identified and set up with a support system before even setting foot on campus for the upcoming semester.
Once cars were unloaded, and lunch enjoyed on the UC Front Lawn Thursday afternoon, parents parted ways with their students and headed inside Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall for family orientation kick-off.
Ricardo Hall, vice provost for student affairs, was the first to welcome parents on what he described as “a very, very important day.” Hall acknowledged his title may not mean anything to them, and he told students the same thing earlier in the day, but he hopes it means something over time.
“Hopefully, not necessarily me, but the folks who work with me in the division of student affairs, will mean a lot to you,” Hall said.
Hall asked for a show of hands on how many parents were dropping off their first, or only, student at college. About three-quarters of the parents in the auditorium raised their hands. Hall then asked parents who had gone through this experience with another child to stand. He directed all the parents who raised their hands to speak with these parents because they would reassure them that everything is going to be fine.
Dr. Patrick Farrell, provost and vice president for academic affairs, followed Hall and expressed his enjoyment of Sunday’s university convocation, the one time the entire first-year class comes together.
“What I like about this, is it’s an opportunity for me and the president, and a few others, to say this is a place that’s social, it’s a place to make friends, it’s a place to have new experiences,” Farrell said. “It’s also a place about challenging you intellectually, challenging you to work hard on things you’re interested in. We’re going to challenge you to work hard on some things you’re not sure you’re interested in, even a few things you’re pretty sure you’re not interested in.”
Farrell also told parents about one of the key parts of college—stretching your mind to think about things in ways you haven’t before—and explained how Lehigh plans to challenge each and every student.
“At the end of their time at Lehigh, we have a pretty clear idea of where we want all of our graduates to be, how they’ve developed, how they’ve been able to really think clearly in ways they didn’t before,” Farrell said. “Take on new challenges they wouldn’t have imagined being able to do. Really being able to dive into new problems where it’s not quite clear where you could go and how do we do this. Or as I like to say, our goal here is to graduate students who, when they leave, are able to take on problems that we don’t even think of as problems.
“We can’t teach the solution because the problem doesn’t exist. But it will, and we’re going to count on those graduates to not only figure out what is the problem, how to address and as best they can, how to solve it. Our job is to equip them to be able to do that.”
Stefanie Burke, assistant dean and director of first-year experience, spoke about Lehigh’s bLUeprint program.
Nicole Burke, associate director of first-year experience, informed families of the social and academic programs their students would be taking part in the coming days. She also explained the orientation groups students are divided into, as well as programs designed to acclimate students into the Lehigh community, such as Camp Hawk, which a two-day retreat in September that is Lehigh’s version of summer camp for first-year students after classes have already begun.
Photos and video by Stephanie Veto