September 23, 2017

Warmth and optimism from Alondra to Zapata

Going to college for the first time is a momentous occasion in the life of any undergraduate. This past week I was thrilled to participate in two of my favorite Stanford traditions that seek to facilitate this transition: Move-In Day and the new undergraduate reception at Hoover House.

Credit: Michael Spencer

On Move-In Day, the Farm buzzes as anticipation shifts into arrival. At every turn, new students and their families are met by a campus community that is so eager to embrace them. I am always inspired to watch how swiftly new students’ apprehension melts in response to the warmest of welcomes, which encourages confidence and sparks optimism for the year ahead.

As I traveled to dorms from Alondra to Zapata greeting new students and their parents, I marveled at how members of the enormous Stanford village converged in their Hawaiian shirts, tutus, bathrobes, pajamas and neon to completely envelop our new students and their families in kindness, understanding and unbridled enthusiasm.

New Student Orientation staff and volunteers, including dorm staff, RFs, RAs, movers, greeters and information guides were ever-present and ready to help. Every detail had been meticulously planned, down to the precise itinerary that Orientation Coordinator Remy Gordon ’20 prepared to ensure that I reached each dorm on schedule during the move-in period. Such careful planning and dedication to serve our new students reflects the very best of Stanford.

Credit: Aaron Kehoe

Throughout the day, I was delighted to meet first year and transfer students and their families, who hailed from nearly every state and from dozens of countries. The scenes at each dorm were distinct, but some things were universal – the look of surprise when new students approached their dorm and heard their name called to cheers; families beaming with pride and excitement, and also shedding the occasional tear; and members of the Stanford community extending a warm welcome with kind smiles and exuberant displays!

Just last year, I myself participated in Move-In Day as a parent helping my daughter to get situated. I remember vividly how I felt on her first day – a mix of excitement and also wistfulness and reflection about the passage of time. So, for students reading this, keep in mind that parents and family members hold dear their memories of you from each stage of your life. We remember when we saw you for the first time, when we watched you explore the world, and when we had to start letting you go out into that world on your own. Dropping you off at college represents a big step in your life and ours, too.

Credit: Michael Spencer

Another one of my favorite Stanford traditions occurs just three days after Move-In Day: the Hoover House reception for new undergraduates. This year, Mary and I were excited to host well over a thousand first year and transfer students, who converged on the great lawn under a brilliant blue sky.

I marveled at what a difference a few days made!  The students arrived in groups with their new-found friends, many from their dorms.  A big contingent from Donner was the first to greet me on the lawn, their community as tight-knit as if they had been together for a year.  Clusters of students large and small from other dorms, their friendships blossoming, introduced themselves throughout the event, and Mary and I were honored to oblige requests for selfies! In just a few days, a collection of newly arrived individuals was well on its way to coalescing into a community, infused with energy, optimism and excitement for the adventures ahead.

As the event ended and the students departed, my thoughts turned again to the parents and family members who entrusted their children to us just days ago.  I wish you could have been here for the reception to see that your child is not alone and has been embraced by a warm and caring community. Seeing your student’s excitement and sense of belonging would have reassured you and warmed your heart, as, thanks to your love and support, they now begin a more independent stage of their life journey.

Credit: Michael Spencer