Follow along as photographers Phyllis Graber Jensen and Theophil Syslo, and writers Doug Hubley and Emily McConville, share sights and stories from the Class of 2021’s arrival on Aug. 28.
While this time-stamp presentation is a span of just 12 hours, Opening Day begins the experience of a lifetime for students and families.
It’s always a goal that the incoming class should encounter a lint-free Student Affairs staff, so Assistant Dean of Residence Life and Health Education Molly Newton rolls a lint remover over a jacket sleeve belonging to Director of Student Life Blake Reilly.
Along with student Orientation leaders, they’re awaiting arrivals to Chu and Kalperis halls, on Campus Avenue.
Meanwhile, about 200 yards away, first-year students are doing what they need to do first: reporting to the Central Avenue entrance of Commons for their official check-in.
They’re arriving at the rate of about one per minute, estimates Jennifer Foley, an Opening Day volunteer whose day job is as associate vice president for college advancement.
With a decisive handshake and “Welcome to Bates,” Foley greets the first-years and makes sure they know the drill once they get inside Commons.
An important aspect to her job, Foley notes, is ensuring that the new students check in by themselves — and feel comfortable doing it — as their parents are directed toward their students’ residences.
“It’s the first time kids are asked to do something on their own” at Bates, she says.
Early arrivers Barbara and Kerwin Charles, parents of Michael Charles ’21 of Valley Stream, N.Y., get help from Michael Hogue ’20 of Chicago and Brielle Antonelli ’18 of Warwick, N.Y., as they move their son’s gear into Kalperis Hall.
Hogue and Antonelli represent some of the variety of student leaders who pitch in on Opening Day. Hogue will lead a group of first-years on an outdoor trip to Mount Blue in two days, while Antonelli will assist new students throughout the next several days as an Orientation Week Leader, or OWL.
Hundreds of Bobcats help the new students move in, including college staff members (i.e., the Welcome Crew) and students like this group posing on Campus Avenue: Orientation Week Leaders (OWLs), AESOP outdoor trip leaders, and student members of the Residence Life staff.
As vehicles pull up to residences, student Orientation leaders descend like a NASCAR pit crew to begin the unpacking.
Back at Commons, students approach the four check-in tables in ones and twos. Conferences and Campus Events staff are giving the first-years their room keys, student IDs on lanyards, and stainless steel PRCs or Personal Reusable Containers — that is, sustainable beverage cups.
“There’s no food without it.”
Kelly Perreault of Campus Events has her spiel down pat: Don’t lose the ID, she warns the students good-naturedly. They’ll need it for building access, library privileges, and board plan: “There’s no food without it.” She also explains the PRC program and reminds the students to hand-wash the mugs before drinking from them.
Brenda Pelletier, conferences and campus events manager, estimates that about 150 students have checked in so far, including one right at the crack of 7 a.m.
Wearing a Welcome Crew T-shirt, President Clayton Spencer greets Erin Bucki ’21 of Saint Paul, Minn., outside of Commons.
Security staff, wearing bright fluorescent visibility vests, direct traffic. Various passersby — pedestrians walking dogs or heading to Merrill Gym, commuters in their cars, and food-laden tractor-trailers pulling into the lot between the dining hall and Alumni Gym — add texture to the scene.
Moving over to Chu and Kalperis halls, President Spencer greets the family of Layla Dozier ’21 of the Bronx, with a friendly admonishment about father Andre Dozier’s Yankee gear. At left is Layla’s brother, Andre Jr., and her mother, Doris.
The next family to arrive at Chu and Kalperis is that of Solaine Carter ’21 of Tucson, Ariz.
“You guys are amazing,” says mom Beth Mitchneck, as students in garnet shirts quickly empty the minivan, then cart boxes, bags, and a framed photo of Solaine’s dog to the second floor of Kalperis.
It’s a surprisingly efficient end to a long drive. The family left Tucson on Aug. 15 and wound their way across the country, visiting friends, meeting Solaine’s roommate in Nashville, and dropping Solaine’s older sister off at graduate school.
Solaine, fresh from her check-in at Commons, arrives at the dorm. The college prepared her well for Opening Day, she says. “I’ll be like, ‘Mom! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do for X!’ And then, two seconds later, I get an email about X.”
She’s looking forward to the opportunities Orientation affords her. “I’m really excited to meet new people, learn about myself,” she says, then heads inside to see her room.
At Kalperis Hall, President Spencer joins the effort to help first-years move in.
Settling in, Jaimin Keliihoomalu ’21 of Kapolei, Hawaii, relaxes with his guitar in his room in the 280 College Street residence.
Jake Bart ’21 of New York City felt the early morning chill, but describes his introduction to Bates overall as “nice.” His mood is “mostly excitement but a little nervous,” largely about beginning his first prolonged stay away from home. In that vein, he notes, “Mom’s a little emotional, but Dad’s doing pretty well.”
It’s too early to think about a major. “I’ll try a lot of things and see where that leads me,” Jake says. And why Bates? “Mostly the vibe. Everyone’s very nice. I saw myself here.”
At 280 College Street, Jim Guzelian, the college’s environmental health and safety specialist, helps Hannah Lucas ’21 of New York City place risers under her bed as her mother, Elizabeth Lucas, looks on.
At Kalperis, Sommer Glasgow ’21 of Salt Lake City unloads her family’s car with the help of student leaders, hauls everything upstairs, and starts to unpack, placing a Keurig in a prominent place.
A few minutes later, two Junior Advisors introduce themselves. James MacDonald ’20 of Quincy, Mass., and Kelly McDonald ’19 of Whately, Mass., (not siblings, they’re quick to say) welcome her to the dorm and to Bates.
As JAs who live amidst a group of new students known as a First Year Center, their job throughout the year is to mentor the new students, create activities for them, and uphold community standards.
But their biggest goal today, MacDonald and McDonald say, is to make the students feel welcome. They’re greeting — and reassuring — families, answering questions, and helping first-years get settled.
“I hope they get comfortable with campus so they’re not intimidated or hesitant to know where they’re going and try new things,” MacDonald says.
In Kalperis Hall, Carter Ros ’21 of Hailey, Idaho, takes direction from his mother, Margo, in setting up his room. He’s an aspiring Nordic skier.
At Wentworth Adams Hall, the balloons are swaying, “Adams Hall” posters displaying, music playing — the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive.” It’s all the handiwork of the student residence life staff, who are here in enthusiastic evidence.
Nevo Polonsky, coordinator of campus life and residential programming for Student Affairs, explains that Junior Advisors are typically in touch with the first-years in their charge during the summer, so for the newbies, “it’s much more exciting to put a face with a name.”
He has seen a quick integration of new students into the fold, he adds, because there’s such a diversity of interests among both the new and established students. Because common interests are easy to find, “a lot of incoming students have already gotten connected to someone,” he explains.
By mid-morning on Alumni Walk, it’s a hub of activity as students move in at Parker Hall, the second-oldest Bates building, built in 1857.
Ruth Veleta and her husband are delivering Tom Hennessey ’21 of Middletown, Conn., to his digs in Parker Hall. It’s not her first kid-to-college rodeo — her step-daughters are college graduates — but it’s still kind of a wrench. “We’re trying to stay future-oriented and hold the tears till the end of the day,” she laughs.
Abra Kaplan ’21 of Oak Park, Ill., stretches to pin a Bates College banner on the wall of her Rand Hall room with the help of her father, Gary Kaplan.
Moms and daughters meet and greet in Kalperis Hall. From left, Elizabeth Fairman ’21 of Lathurp Village, Mich., her mother, Sarah Fairman, roommate Joselyn Jaramillo ’21 of Newark, N.J., and her mother, Nelly Jaramillo.
Jaramillo has been on campus for the past week as a Bobcat First! participant. The night before, she invited Fairman to check out their room on the second floor of Kalperis.
Fairman first heard about Bates from her college counselor, whose son is an alumnus. When she took a tour and stayed overnight, she was struck by the campus’ beauty and sense of community.
“They were so nice and so welcoming, and I loved the emphasis on the outdoors as well,” she says.
The move-in, and everything up to it, leaves Fairman’s mother pleased. She knows Bates will help Elizabeth figure out what she wants to do, while being in the outdoors and making friends.
“The one thing that we discovered in our searches is that we were looking for her to find her people,” says Sarah Fairman. “We think she found it here.”
Nancy Crate, mother of Will Crate ’21 of South Hamilton, Mass., pays for a wrap and bandana for Tucker, the family’s Jack Russell terrier, who jumps for joy.
Staffing the cash register are College Store director Gail St. Pierre, and her daughter, Abrielle, 11.
The Resource Fair in Perry Atrium is an exposition of more than a dozen Bates offices and services ranging from the Bates Career Development Center to the Sustainability Office.
We overhear Multifaith Chaplain Brittany Longsdorf and the mother of a new student discussing the eight banners representing world faith traditions in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel.
One of the banners, a tree, represents the Sikh religion, Longsdorf explains, and the planet Earth stands for humanist or pagan traditions. “So there are quite a few pagans, then?” the woman asks. “There’s not an official group, but there’s significant interest,” Longsdorf replies.
Eliza Fischer ’21 of Chicago gets settled in Kalperis Hall.
Out of sheer excitement, she woke up at 6:30 this morning. Part of a sizable Bates contingent staying at the Hampton Inn in downtown Lewiston, Fischer and her family all felt torqued up by the momentous day ahead, but were able to settle down some over coffee and bagels at Forage, a wood-fired bakery and market on Lisbon Street.
Fischer, whose academic interests include international politics or environmental studies, visited a lot of schools, but was sold by “how nice and amazing the people are at Bates.” She’s nervous to be away from home for the first time, but more excited.
Prarthana Mocherla ’21 of Old Tappan, N.J., and her parents, Sunita Abraham and Pavan Mocherla, talk with Paul Menice, interim director of security and campus safety, at the Resource Fair in Perry Atrium.
“My husband and I were just talking about how well things are going,” says Abraham, who’s taking a break while Prarthana scopes out the fair.
Earlier, she recalls, “a group of wonderfully enthusiastic people grabbed her stuff and whisked it up to the fourth floor” of her daughter’s dorm.
Prarthana is an only child: “I have been weepy and teary for the last four or five days,” says Abraham. “I think she’s just waiting until 5 o’clock, when we leave.” Joining the conversation, Prarthana says, “I’m fine. I think it’ll hit after they leave.”
Another parent encountered at the Resource Fair, John Shaw says that “it’s hard to believe how quickly they grow up,” referring to his son, Keaton Shaw ’21 of Middleton, Wisc.
The elder Shaw explains how, back in the day, he and his wife were part of a cohort of young couples who all moved into their neighborhood in Middleton around the same time. Now those couples are becoming empty nesters, and the next round of young families is coming in. When your kids are little, Shaw says, “cherish it. It goes too fast.”
During a lull in the pulling up of cars and the getting out of boxes and the jostling for coveted elevators, the group of orientation leaders at Chu Hall starts an impromptu dance party to “Eye of the Tiger.”
Grace Jurkovich ’18 of St. Paul, Minn., an OWL, has a high opinion of her task: “We have the best job on campus right now, which is really to facilitate the fun.”
Today, the fun includes dinner in Commons and a hike up Mount David. Later this week, Jurkovich will lead a restaurant tour of Lewiston.
“All the first-years on campus are equalized on the same nervous level.”
Amelia Wilhelm ’18 of Charlotte, N.C., a residence coordinator in Hopkins House who was Jurkovich’s first-year roommate, says their goal is to get new students out of their dorms and into the wider Bates community.
“All the first-years on campus are equalized on the same nervous level, so providing the programs to put all those people together and get them interacting in whatever way they want to be interacting — I think it’s a great system,” Wilhelm says.
Both Jurkovich and Wilhelm are impressed by today’s weather, the first-years’ room-decorating skills, and the welcome messages on the Chu Hall blackboards.
“This is a weird adult thing to say, but I’m so excited to move my children into college, because what will dorms look like in, like, 20 years?” Wilhelm says.
At the campus-facing entrance to Commons, one sees large green inflatable sofas and hears Cyndi Lauper singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” And one must simply ask why.
It’s the OWL Hub: A one-stop offering from the Orientation Week Leaders, a student team that has put together amusements and recreational activities to help first-years ease stress and fill vacant moments during Orientation. (OWLs T-shirt slogan: “OWL be there for you.”)
The Hub is the brainchild of OWL Allison Berman ’18 of Philadelphia. Last year, she says, “a lot of students wanted a place to hang out, ask questions, find things to do.” Hence the Hub, with its snacks, cornhole boards and other games, the sofas (which proved very popular, especially with certain tapped-out dads), and, of course, Cyndi. It’s not just girls who want to have fun.
Appetites whetted by move-in work, hungry queues form for the Family and New Student Barbecue.
On the menu: fresh fruit salad, brussels sprout panzanella salad, and cole slaw; for sandwiches, pulled chicken, pulled pork, and chipotle barbecued tofu with grilled vegetables; for sides, maple brown sugar baked beans, roasted corn, and cheesy corn bread; and for dessert, whoopie pies in blueberry and vanilla.
Zhao Li ’21 of Guangzhou, China, and Rio Fujii ’21 of Tokyo have staked out a spot under a tree. Each flew 15-plus hours from their countries to Boston, then took buses to Portland, where Associate Dean of Students for International Student Programs James Reese picked them up. They met in Commons this morning, bonding over an interest in politics.
Li, who knew she wanted to attend a liberal arts college, heard of Bates through a college counselor, and applied early decision.
“I find that it is academically strong and I value that in this school,” she said.
Accustomed to the high-rises of her home city, Li liked the shortness of Bates’ buildings. Fujii, here for one year on the Hirasawa exchange program, was struck by the openness of the campus — her home university in Japan is closed to anyone without an ID.
Fujii said she was excited for the rest of the student body to arrive.
“I love campus,” she said. “I love people, so everything is good, but the thing is, I’ve only met international students, so I really hope that spending one year here, I’ll find local people, American students to get along with.”
A ways away, Gift Kiti ’18 of Nairobi, Kenya, understands the new students’ nervousness. As a JA in Kalperis, she tries to make move-in as smooth as possible, welcoming the students to Bates and directing them to the resource fair and Wal Mart as needed.
“I hope they are open to each other and make potential friends, and they make use of the opportunities being offered right now to know more about Bates,” she says. “But not to be too hard on themselves — just to have fun.”
Across the Library Quad, Will Jaekle ’21 of Wilson, Wyo., and his parents, Laurie and Don, enjoy their lunch on a grassy slope. By the time he finished checking in at Commons, the Orientation crew already carried his things to the hall outside his room in Rand Hall.
“They were really fast. I saw my dad leaving, and I thought they just asked him to go find a parking spot, and I’d have to carry it,” he said.
How is the family feeling at this point? “Good,” says Laurie. “Good,” says Don.
“Nervous,” says Will.
Posing for an after-lunch portrait at the Class of 1920 Gate are Adrian Azari ’21 of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., his father, Hamid, and mother, Christa.
Director of Athletics Jason Fein snaps a selfie with the Cote family of Wilton, Conn., after his welcoming remarks to student athletes and their families at the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building. Jackson Cote ’21 (center) hopes to row for Bates.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fein is a Bates newcomer, too, arriving from Drew University on July 1. “We’re going through the first year together,” he tells the newest Bobcats. “We’ll be there together.”
Fein’s welcome focuses on an overview of the Bobcat athletic program. “We want the best possible experience for every participant, we want excellence in NESCAC and at the national level, and we want to build community.”
Still, some of Fein and his leadership team’s messages transcended sports, including the importance of students taking responsibility for communicating with their professors and coaches.
Students, says Tommy Verdell, assistant athletic director for compliance, should get in the habit of face-to-face communication with professors and coaches and “get out of the habit of relying on mom or dad to solve your problems. That’s not going to flow here at the college level.”
“We always prefer that communication come from the students because we try, as much as possible to treat them as adults.”
Later in the presentation, Fein returns to that theme. “I ask the parents, before you pick up the phone to call a coach, a dean, an AD, or assistant AD, you check in with your student to see if they have made contact. We always prefer that communication come from the students because we try, as much as possible to treat them as adults.”
That’s not to say that parents should be out of the loop, says presenter Susan Harriman, assistant director of athletics.
In fact, as she tells the students in the audience, now is the time to up your texting game. “Part of how family members support each other comes from communicating. So, teach your family members how to text. And then you need to send them texts. Otherwise they call us and say they haven’t heard from you in 24 hours!”
That’s the takeaways says Fein as he concludes the greeting. “Text your mom and tell her what’s going on. She worries.”
After a busy morning of moving in, Sarah Abbott ’21 of Bethlehem, N.H., and her father, Ken Abbott, take a few minutes to chill in inflatable chairs outside of Commons, courtesy of the OWL Hub.
Miles Lamberson ’19 of Hinesburg, Vt., gives two thumbs up after fitting Noah Loughlin ’21 of Mililani, Hawaii, with a backpack during the AESOP equipment check-out at Chase Hall. Loughlin will be participating in the Franconia trip.
If parents wonder how their student will find work that gives them meaning in life, find the answer during a presentation on Purposeful Work by Rebecca Fraser-Thill, lecturer in psychology and director of faculty engagement and outreach for the college’s Purposeful Work program.
In the Olin Concert Hall, Fraser-Thill explains how Purposeful Work programming guides students as they explore and then define their interests and abilities, with the ultimate goal of finding work that affords a sense of purpose.
“We are encouraging our students to feel purposeful in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the community — in all of their endeavors throughout the academic year and into the summer and beyond,” she says.
The Class of 2021 is the first cohort to find Purposeful Work programming fully in place at Bates. They’ll have a four-year experience of funded internships, courses infused with real-world applications, practioner-taught Short Term courses, and the ever-popular How to Adult series.
“It’s the perfect time to be here and perfect time to capitalize on everything we have to offer,” she says.
Tiffany Cervantes ’21 of New Haven, Conn., and Erick Gredonia ’21 of North Hollywood, Calif., search the aisles of the Walmart across the river in Auburn — he for shampoo (success), she for a cactus for her room (nope: the store’s plants had withered away, according to the store associate staffing the section).
The dorms are, of course, hubs of Bates activity on Opening Day, but so is the Walmart. Throughout the day, cars with license plates from around the country stream in and out as families pick up what they need.
The Opening Day schedule includes a van shuttle to Walmart for those without their own transportation. After arriving, the students scatter into the store, and Mamta Saraogi ’21 of Kolkata, India, locates the flatware she wants for her room.
First-years are not the only Bates students doing last-minute shopping. A few aisles over, a group of student AESOP outdoor trip leaders look for clothing, props, and art supplies. They’re going skating at the Rollodrome tonight, and each pair has to come in coordinated costumes. Katrina Muñoz ’18 and Riley Ewing ’18, both of Bedford, N.H., are going as a firefighter and a dalmatian.
Ewing, beaming, rounds a corner to find Muñoz. “Our hats make noise!” he declares, holding up a pair of beeping and flashing fire hats.
A parent dabs her eyes during President Spencer’s welcome on the Historic Quad in front of Coram Library.
In her remarks, Spencer spoke as a mother, recalling the day she helped her son, Will, move in at New York University, and the tears that she shed that day.
“Granting the variability of life with a teenager…I was saying goodbye to a person who had been a constant in my life and in the life of our family for 18 solid years. The feeling was inescapable that the project of raising this child was certainly not finished — Lord knows! — but somehow the terms of the undertaking had just changed irrevocably.”
But, she added, “most of all, I think, my tears were the product of that X-ray vision that is our special burden as parents.”
That special vision, she said, “causes us to look at our accomplished, poised, and loving children and see straight through to the fears and frailties that we know are there, and that we know still have the power to cause pain and sorrow and hurt to these creatures we love beyond all reason.”
Starkia Benbow of Boston comforts her 13-year-old daughter Takiyah Walker during Spencer’s welcome.
Walker was sad that her older sister, Tiauna Walker ’21 of Millbury, Mass., was moving away from home. “They are best friends,” says Benbow.
Dylan Simon ’21 of San Francisco receives a heartfelt hug from her father, Beau Simon, as the day concludes on the Historic Quad.
Her mother, Daphne Stannard, says, “It’s always been a parental task to kick the bird out of the nest. It’s really hard to do this, but we are really proud. We know she’s going to have a great four years here.”
Following the president’s welcome, Ben Klafter ’21 of New York, N.Y., hugs his mother, Nancy Kestenbaum, during the Farewell Reception and Family Goodbye, held on the Library Terrace.
Jason Seeger ’21 of Belmont, Mass., embraces his mother Kim Seeger during the Farewell Reception and Family Goodbye in the Library Terrace.
And then it was almost over. Atop Mount David, members of the Class of 2021 gather to watch their first sunset as Bates students. But really, it’s just beginning.