As thousands of freshmen get their college careers in the Capital Region underway, Dean of First Year Students Kate Schurick encouraged Union College newbies to think of their time on campus as a story.
Each student will be the lead character in their story, and the Schenectady campus will serve as the setting, she said during an Orientation Day address Sunday at Memorial Chapel. There will be secondary characters and multiple conflicts along the way, she said, but Sunday marked the beginning.
“Today is an important day in your story,” she said.
Incoming freshmen at Union and Skidmore colleges, in Schenectady and Saratoga Springs, respectively, moved onto campus on Sunday as the 2017-18 academic year gets underway. Those at Union are part of what officials deemed the most competitive applicant pool in school history.
Families and orientation leaders at Union and Skidmore spent much of Sunday carrying boxes, storage bins, suitcases, ironing boards, bedding and whatever else fit into the car across campus and into freshmen residence halls.
At Union, the freshmen class is made up of 573 students who come from 28 states and 16 countries, including Egypt, Greece, Morocco, Nepal and the Netherlands. The class stems from a pool of roughly 6,000 applications, said Matthew Malatesta, vice president for admissions, financial aid and enrollment at Union.
“I’m actually more interested in those of you with younger siblings,” Malatesta joked at the Memorial Chapel event.
He then began reading off some of the responses accepted students had given to an application prompt that simply read “Why Union?”
A few students said they felt the school would challenge them and provide a competitive atmosphere. Others talked about the ability to get an education inside and outside the classroom.
“My only advice is to stay true to why you chose Union,” Malatesta said. “Get involved. Contribute. Be fully invested in this place and know you belong.”
At Union, many students and families said they had visited campus before for an Accepted Students Day or campus tour, and were excited to be getting settled in for good. A few parents remarked they were jealous of their child’s upcoming college experience.
While nearly 600 freshmen are just getting their time at Union started, Stephen Ainlay, the college’s president, is bringing his to a close. The school announced last week that Ainlay, who has been there since 2006, will step down from his role next June.
During his tenure, Ainlay helped the college attract record numbers of applicants, diversify its student body and raise funds for building overhauls and expansions. A $100 million Science and Engineering Center will be completed after Ainlay vacates the president’s home.
As his final academic year at the helm gets underway, Ainlay had a few pieces of advice for the freshmen class. He urged them to be intentional about their time at Union and to seek out opportunities, rather than letting college happen to them.
He encouraged them to both deepen their understanding of certain topics while also broadening their horizons and exposing themselves to new points of view.
Finally, he had the students in the building stand and look at one another. As the students turned and murmured to one another, Ainlay challenged them to make the most of their next four years in Schenectady, and to help others do the same.
“We want every one of the people you see standing in this room to have an incredible four years,” he said. “It’s up to each one of you to make sure everyone has a wonderful experience.”
The class of 2021 is now settled into campuses across the Capital Region, with Skidmore and Union colleges holding orientation activities this weekend. Other local schools, including University at Albany and The College of Saint Rose, began classes last week.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what movies, music and television shows were prominent when this year’s freshmen were born.
- Academy Award for Best Picture (1999): “Shakespeare in Love”
- Grammy Award for Record of the Year (1999): “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
- Emmy Award for Best Drama Series (1998): “The Practice”
- Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series (1998): “Frasier”