Brandeis extends warm welcome to Class of 2020

First-years and transfer students come from far and wide to start their Brandeis journeys.

Brandeis students gather beneath light of reason sculpture Photo/Heratch Ekmekjian

A warm and exciting buzz filled a sun-splashed Brandeis campus on Sunday, Aug. 21 as 845 first-year and 56 transfer students made their way to the university to start their college journeys.

The newest members of the Brandeis family hail from 43 states and 30 countries across the globe. And on Sunday morning, all of them received a welcoming greeting from campus staff, community advisors and 95 orientation leaders (OLs) who helped new students move into Massell and North quad residence halls.

The OLs – who are current students who volunteer to help first-years assimilate to campus – stood out prominently as they all wore matching electric blue t-shirts and carried out the day’s events with a friendly and energetic spirit.

In the morning, the OLs helped the new students unload cars, carry furniture into rooms and provide directions for where to go to choose meal plans, take student-ID photos and buy books.

“Everyone was so friendly and nice, the whole moving in went smoothly” said Jake Warren ’20, who drove a short way from his hometown of Medway, Massachusetts with his family.

“I’m excited to meet new people,” added Warren, who intends to study business. “I’m ready for this experience.”

Brandeis’ new President, Ron Liebowitz, who took office on July 1, made his first major public address to the university community as he welcomed new students and their parents at the Brandeis Beginnings convocation on Chapels Field.

He noted that though he is still relatively new to campus, he’s already found Brandeis to be a place with a vibrant community that is committed to academic excellence, inquiry and changing the world. He promised that the Class of 2020 would discover this as well, but offered some advice to help them along their journeys.

“Learn and live the institution’s special history: its reason for its founding; the values upon which its culture was established; and its commitment to open and free debate in the pursuit of understanding what we don’t know, no matter how sensitive or personal the issue,” Liebowitz said.

“We cannot forget or minimize why Brandeis was founded as we strive to create the most inclusive and rich learning environment on campus,” Liebowitz added. “And we can’t forget the values that came with its founding.  Being open to all, engaging in critical debate and self-criticism, and helping to heal the world – tikkun olam – were foundational aspects of Brandeis’ establishment 68 years ago, and they remain so important today. 

Andrew Flagel, Brandeis’ senior vice-president of students and enrollment, also offered some words of advice to new students and explained this year’s orientation theme: Remember yesterday, explore today and brighten tomorrow.

“With all of the opportunity at Brandeis comes responsibility,” Flagel said. “You are already leaders – continue to push us and this institution further – seek to be the change you want to see in this world. We will often remind you that to those to whom much is given, much is expected. Your talent is your power and it gives us tremendous expectations – that you will be part of the solution – that you, together, will help repair our world.”

After sunset, first-years and their OLs gathered underneath the Light of Reason installation in front of Rose Art Museum for a program called “Light up the Night.”

“Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said ‘If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold,’” Flagel said as he stood in front of the sculpture. “Students on orientation started their own performance art – they would take a moment the first night of orientation, your first night on campus, to put more light into the world, focusing their hopes and dreams for making the world a better place. We have never needed that light more than today.”

"Brandeis University is the home to the student who challenges the status quo, who breaks down the patriarchy, who dismantles oppression," said Orientation core commitee member Deena Fisch '18. "We are the students who continue to persevere barrier after barrier, wall after wall, until a change is made."

As Flagel again welcomed the Class of 2020, first-years raised up tiny lanterns their OLs had distributed. Then, the Light of Reason lit up, and the crowd cheered.

Sunday marked only the first day of New Undergraduate Student Orientation, which features a number of campus events and fun activities aimed at helping new students learn more about Brandeis and adjust to campus life.

Members of the Class of 2020 already seem to be well on their way to learning the ropes and embracing their new surroundings.

“I’m excited for classes to start and to get into a routine,” said Yvonna Roderick ’20 of Harlem, New York. “I’m really excited. This day exceeded my expectations and I’m happy.”

Categories: Alumni, General, Student Life

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