First-years on a path to 'Find their Genius'

Class of 2018 students encouraged to leave their own mark on history

Photos/Mike Lovett

Brandeis welcomed its newest family members to campus on Sunday, Aug. 24 for the start of new student orientation.

The 865 first-year students and 65 transfer students, from across the country and around the world, arrived in the early morning to move into their residence halls and officially begin their college careers. Orientation Leaders, current students who will help first-years assimilate to campus culture, were buzzing about the campus in bright blue t-shirts, first directing car traffic as new students arrived, then helping with unloading, carrying and unpacking at the Massell and North residence halls. Community Advisers and Brandeis athletes also volunteered their time to help unload cars and welcome the newest Brandeisians.

“The move in was awesome, it was good to meet my roommate and my floor,” said Kyle Berney ’18, from Shreveport, La. “I’m still waiting for it to set in. It’s pretty strange, just different. It doesn’t feel like home yet, but I’m so excited for classes to start.”

Elizabeth Barris ’18 from Chicago, who moved into Usen, noted, “One of my good friends from school is in the room next to me, so that’s really nice. But I’m looking forward to meeting new friends, starting my classes and meeting my professors.”

The students were formally welcomed to Brandeis by President Fred Lawrence on a sun-splashed Chapels Field, followed by a blessing from four university chaplains.  Trevor Tuplin ’15, the orientation coordinator, highlighted the accomplishments of Brandeis alumnus Adam Cheyer ’88, who helped develop Siri, the iPhone’s talking virtual assistant. Tuplin told the new students the Brandeis experience has the capacity to change their lives and the lives of others, just as it did for Cheyer.

“This is probably one of the most enthusiastic and just curious group of students I have encountered and I know that because I answered more than 200 emails from them,” said Tuplin. “They want to engage themselves in this community and take advantage of everything.”

Lawrence and Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel built on Tuplin’s message, telling the first-years that they had been selected from the largest pool of applicants in university history, and that new challenges would push them to new heights and help them toward success.

Lawrence spoke enthusiastically of the first-years’ coming experience in his convocation address. He reminded the students that they are part of a unique university named after a unique individual, and assured them that Brandeis will give them the chance to grow into the person they wish to become. Lawrence encouraged the students to emulate Justice Louis D. Brandeis and become beacons for social justice, to have moral courage and to be grounded in both theory and practice. He also spoke to the importance of a liberal arts education and how it can help first-year students to follow in the footsteps of notable Brandeis alumni and leave their own mark on history.

Flagel, who donned an Albert Einstein wig to the delight of the crowd, quoted Einstein several times as he encouraged the students to follow the orientation theme and “Find their Genius.”

As convocation came to an end, students and their families followed the tradition of an often-tearful goodbye at the Louis Brandeis statue, after which the students headed to their residence halls while parents gathered in Fellows Garden for a reception. 

That sense of tradition and community continued with students gathering in front of the Rose Art Museum for a candle lighting ceremony.  As orientation core member Brendan Weintraub ’16 encouraged the new students to quietly hold up their lit candles and think about their hopes and dreams, the “Light of Reason,” the new Chris Burden sculpture, was illuminated for the first time, to cheers and applause from the incoming class. “Seeing a thousand students holding up those candles while we had a chance to be the ‘test-drive’ for the official lighting on Sept.10 was an awesome moment,” said Kristin Parker from the Rose.

Students moved from that ceremony to a festive atmosphere, which included catered food, a live band and graffiti artists. Some students talked about starting classes, others about the strangeness of leaving their families, though all were overjoyed at being able to call Brandeis home.

“I was very sad to be leaving my parents, but I am super excited about the next four years,” said Barris. “I have a younger sister so I’m the first to go to college. But I’m so excited. I really like the atmosphere here. It’s a very warm and welcoming community and I like the values the school stands for.”

Categories: General, Student Life

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