Plenty of sunshine and low humidity welcomed the Class of 2021 to Lehigh today, and the bright, beautiful day paired well with the excitement and energy that swept through campus as first-year students moved into residence halls.
South Mountain bustled with packed-full cars, trucks and vans making their way from orientation check-in on the Mountaintop Campus to their residence-hall destinations, where they were greeted by a crew of MOOV (Made of Our Volunteers) representatives. These enthusiastic volunteers, comprised of 214 staff and faculty members and 873 students from various organizations, unpacked boxes and bags from waiting vehicles and delivered them to student rooms.
The 923 first-year students who moved in today joined the many students who arrived early on campus for athletic training, the preLUsion pre-orientation experience, band camp and other activities. As they checked in at Iacocca Hall and moved luggage into rooms, nervous excitement was the prevailing emotion for students and parents alike.
“[I have] a lot of nerves going through, but I’m really excited to get going,” said Michael Walsh ’21. Walsh chose Lehigh, he said, because “more than any other school that I visited or looked at, I felt [Lehigh] had the best mix of academic rigor and social life. I think I’m going to get a lot of both, so I’m really excited for that.”
His parents shared in his enthusiasm.
“We're extremely excited because I think he’s really going to thrive here in Lehigh,” said his father, Mike. “I think it’s going to be a perfect fit for him, and I think he’s really going to be exposed to a lot. It’s going to really help him form what he wants to do for the rest of his life.”
“I’m really excited,” said Allison Cronin ’21. “I thought I’d be more sad, but I don’t know… I’m ready to start the year.”
Her mother, Nancy, said she was letting the day’s excitement distract her from the emotions sure to follow.
“My firstborn and my first off to college, so don’t get me going on that,” she said. “But honestly, in the excitement of it all, it probably won’t hit me till she’s out of the car, hopefully, and on her way. But it has to be done. They have to fly, you know?”
Gerry Weimann ’74 was happy to be back at Lehigh as he moved his son, Mike Weimann ’21, into his room.
“[It’s] bittersweet, of course,” he said as he waited for Mike to join him and his daughter, Katie, outside. “I’m so excited for him to be here and so proud of him.”
Mike’s sister, Katie, a sophomore at Lafayette College, said she was glad to have her brother nearby.
“I’m happy that he’s at a place that he really likes,” she said. “I think it makes the sibling rivalry even more intense and fun because we now have our college rivalry. … I’m excited for him, and I hope he knows he can call me whenever he needs to.”
Standing outside Iacocca Hall for check-in, Michael Rinaldi ’21 looked forward to the entire experience.
“I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of new people, enjoying my classes and trying to get involved in as many things as possible,” he said.
His father, Neil, said he was “a little anxious, but overjoyed.” His mother, Janet, nodded in agreement: “I’m excited for this next chapter in his life. I think he’s going to have an awesome experience.”
Move-In Day for Lehigh’s 155th class offered a wide range of opportunities for students and their families to become acclimated to Lehigh and to campus life. Vibrant balloon arrangements beckoned families to the University Center front lawn for a welcome lunch, the Campus Bookstore and the I Forgot Shop provided last-minute shopping opportunities, and campus tours helped acquaint the newest Mountain Hawks and their families with the Packer Campus. Safety resource tours, information sessions and open houses, a first-year writing session and campus resource tables provided a wealth of information throughout the day.
Orientation activities continue through Sunday, featuring a variety of events including Hall Wars, on- and off-campus dining, residence hall meetings, summer reading discussions, an open mic night in Farrington Square, the first-year student and alumni rally, and the university convocation.
Buses will transport students on Saturday evening to ArtsQuest at SteelStacks in South Bethlehem for Lehigh After Dark’s HullabaLU, an evening of entertainment featuring mentalist Craig Karges, live music, a bounce house, giant Jenga and free food. Lehigh After Dark offers students alcohol-free social options on weekends throughout the academic year.
With most personal items moved into rooms, the warm Lehigh welcome continued Thursday afternoon. After students and their families said their goodbyes during the “Farewell to Families,” further orientation activities included residence hall meetings for students and the family orientation kick-off in Grace Hall.
Ricardo Hall, vice provost for student affairs, greeted the families of the Class of 2021.
“Congratulations to you and your student or students for being admitted to an exceptional university,” said Hall, who explained the role of Lehigh’s Division of Student Affairs and reassured parents before their departure from campus.
“When you leave town, just know that your sons and daughters will be well cared for, in and outside the classroom,” Hall said. “... They're going to be okay. You’ve had them now for 18 years or so, and you’ll see in the conversations you have with them, the text messages you have, when you come visit on family weekend and you have some conversations with their faculty or with their Gryphons or with other administrators about how well your son or daughter is doing, you’re going to say, ‘My goodness, what I did for 18 years must have really worked.’ And we’re going to do our level best to build on that over these next four years.”
Hall introduced Provost Pat Farrell, who spoke about academics at Lehigh and offered parents advice on how they can help support their students.
“We do not admit any student we do not think will be successful,” Farrell said. “... We have great confidence in your student’s ability to succeed at Lehigh.”
But, said Farrell, students will face many new challenges, and parents should encourage them to participate in class, ask faculty for help and find a way to work through those challenges.
“One of the wonderful things about going to a great university is that one of the ways we look at educating students is we intend to challenge your students. We intend to challenge them to work hard, we intend to challenge them to think hard, [and] sometimes think in ways that they’re not accustomed to, sometimes take on subjects that they haven’t had to address in the past. That I consider part of our job. What that results in for some students is a little bit of discomfort,” said Farrell.
“... Your student will at times say, ‘This is really hard.’ I know you will be supportive and encouraging. If you hadn’t been, they wouldn’t have gotten this far. Continue to be supportive and encouraging, but also encourage your student to take responsibility for their own learning.”
Dean of Students Katherine Lavinder welcomed parents and family members to Lehigh and congratulated them on their students’ accomplishments.
“Thank you for what you did to bring these students to us, and well done on that front,” she said.
Lavinder spoke about the integral role parents and families play in student success and the importance of the partnership between families and the university in supporting students in taking ownership of their educational experience.
“The partnership of Lehigh and families lives and breathes only when we have the student right at the center of that,” she said.
Lavinder also discussed the issue of alcohol and college life.
“We know that our partnerships with families matter, and one place in particular where we focus on this critical partnership is surrounding alcohol,” she said. “... this is a topic we take seriously and we engage in ongoing conversation with our students about. … The underlying theme to [this ongoing conversation] is that we want our students to be equipped with sound knowledge to make good decisions, to understand that our fundamental concern is always student safety, and that this community expects people to look out for one another. Please join us in our efforts to reinforce those messages by encouraging your students to take care of themselves, to look out for one another, and to seek help when they or others may need it.”
Ed Shupp, chief of the Lehigh University Police Department, also spoke, telling families about the role of the LUPD on campus and encouraging them to attend the safety sessions offered during the orientation. Stefanie Burke, assistant dean and director of First-Year Experience, spoke about programs and resources available to support first-year students in their transition to college, including the signature Lehigh experience, bLUeprint.
For more images of Move-In Day, visit Lehigh's Tumblr page.
Video by Stephanie Veto
Photos by Christa Neu