A new incoming class of more than 800 students got its first taste of life at Saint Mary's during an event-filled Weekend of Welcome (WoW) that included a carnival, pool party and outdoor fair under the stars.
The weekend began with a hectic move-in day, as parents and students unloaded computers and comforters. After a Welcome Mass in the Chapel, the families gathered for a farewell barbecue dinner on the campus lawn. When "The Bells of Saint Mary's" rang out from the Chapel tower, the students shared a few last hugs with their families before heading off to meet their Weekend of Welcome leaders and begin their new lives as Gaels.
"It's kind of bittersweet. I'll miss all my family, but it's an opportunity to experience new things," said Thomas Truong of Brisbane. Jared Chen of San Leandro, agreed, joking: "Even though my mom and I are arguing all the time, I already miss her."
The next morning, at the academic convocation, Richard Carp, the new vice provost for Academic Affairs, welcomed the students, and Provost Beth Dobkin spoke eloquently about the unique Saint Mary's experience known as Seminar, telling the students: "The power of Seminar lies not just in those great ideas that you read about, but in the ways that you come to discuss those ideas."
Acknowledging today's economic challenges, she continued: "I know that some of you are thinking, â€˜OK, fine, but how will all of this get me a job?' " The answer, she said, is: "You'll learn how to engage in respectful dialogue, express yourself eloquently, and articulate connections among ideas. You will also learn how to live in community, with skills of leadership, collaboration, and bridging difference. You will learn how to harness the power of the word, and as you do so, you'll discover yourself and your place in the world. You'll end up not just with a job, but with a life guided by a purpose."
Student body vice president Will Hawley delivered an entertaining and upbeat speech, telling the new Gaels: "The world is your Xbox and you have the remote. So pop in the video game called Life or The Real World or whatever you want to call this adventure and keep advancing on to the next level."
After the convocation, the students focused on the WoW theme of "Who Am I? Who Are We?" They got to know their classmates at a lively Playfair ice-breaker led by Miles Valentino of Berkeley. And hip-hop artists Orange Crush delivered a rap routine that new student Irie Rivera from San Jose described as "ten steps to putting yourself out there."
"It was a great way to connect with our generation," he added.
The next day, more than 200 students put themselves out there by participating in Saturday of Service projects, working on landscaping and cleanup projects at parks in Oakland and Alameda, helping schoolchildren and harvesting produce from Saint Mary's Legacy Garden. Others stayed on campus and participated in the messy but fun "Paint the SMC" tradition and a pool party before ending the evening with a New Orleans-style Carnival.
On Sunday, many students left campus to compete in a high-tech "SCVNGR hunt" by following text messages to locate clues in several Bay Area cities, then enjoyed a final barbecue and the first Mass of the school year.
The weekend and the College seemed to be a hit with the students. "Everyone's so nice and helpful, from financial aid and the business office to your R.A.," said James Lee, a business administration major from Palos Verdes.
Rivera agreed, saying, "I really like the vibe at Saint Mary's."