Move-in day for new students filled with hopes, tradition at North Central College
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com September 6, 2012 3:24PM
Football player and Move-In Crew Member Marty Haderlein carries a rug into a dorm for a new student during move-in day at North Central College in Naperville in Naperville on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Changing the flame
Even grand old traditions are no match for modern sensibilities when it comes to safety.
For decades, new students at North Central College in Naperville would carry open torches door-to-door through the neighborhood, visiting the homes of each professor who lived near the college’s campus.
Today, students still make the journey through the streets in the heart of the Naperville Historic District.
The open torches, however, have been replaced by safer tiki torches or flashlights, and a bonfire was phased out years ago for safety reasons.
The parade, though, remains an integral part of the school’s Welcome Week festivities, school officials said.
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:20PM
Wednesday morning’s rains didn’t dampen Laurie Hamen’s spirits.
“First-year students at North Central move in today,” the downtown Naperville college’s vice president of enrollment management, student affairs and athletics posted on her Facebook wall just as daylight was arriving. “I love this day ... meeting new students and parents and the staff is awesome. A few little thunderstorms in the forecast — no problem!”
By mid-morning the rain had subsided, and rows of fully loaded family vehicles snaked along Chicago Avenue, Brainard Street and adjacent roadways. Each in turn was quickly swarmed by armies of student helpers sporting white T-shirts that read “Move-in crew” on the front and “Welcome home” on the back. Some were brawny football players, others were petite female students with bows on their ponytails, and some were there just because they know what it’s like to settle into a college dorm for the first time.
“It’s kind of a community effort,” said Hamen, marking her 16th residence hall move-in day at North Central. “Pretty much everyone that’s helping had that done for them when they moved in.”
Parents who have hauled in carloads of possessions say they’re grateful for the complimentary heavy lifting, volunteers Ryan Shreve and Rachael Williams said.
Shreve, who lives in Plainfield when he’s not going to school, said the aim is to make sure nobody in the car has to lift a finger to unload it. But that’s not why the 20-year-old residential adviser in the newly completed Res/Rec Center pitches in, greeting families as they pull up to the curb.
“I like being the first face that everyone sees,” he said.
New arrivals were bringing along the usual stuff — miniature fridges, futons, microwave ovens — the two helpers said.
“And a lot of food,” they added in unison.
Close to home
The new home away from home for Kiersten Spayer and Kelly Baessler, both 18, is in Geiger Residence Hall, a space that was quickly filling with the roommates’ possessions.
Spayer chose campus life over what would have been a quick commute to class from her family’s Naperville home.
“I really just wanted the full college experience, to meet new friends and live independently,” said the 2012 Metea Valley High School graduate, whose new roommate comes from Glen Ellyn.
The pair aren’t the only incoming freshmen who live close enough to pop home and run a load of laundry. Newly graduated Geneva High School alumna Noelle Humbert submitted more than a dozen applications to an array of schools, some of them quite far away, before settling on North Central and the residence-hall life.
“It’s a better experience to stay on campus,” said Jaimie Humbert, Noelle’s mom.
With her eye on a dual major of musical theater and music education, Noelle said the four-year-old Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center was a significant factor when decision time came. But so were the campus and its outskirts.
“It has a small-town feel,” she said. “But I can still go to the city.”
For new dorm dweller Johnny Scott, North Central is a family affair. The Glen Ellyn native’s mom, Sue Sullivan, is North Central’s assistant director of human resources. Brian Sullivan, her husband, is studying there for an MBA.
“It’s a fabulous place to work, it’s a fabulous school,” Sue said. “And I wanted (Johnny) to live on campus.”
In a bit of poetic symmetry, the fall of 2012 is seeing North Central welcome students from 20 different states and 12 countries.
“They’re coming from as far away as Rwanda and as close as a few blocks away,” said Kevin McCarthy, assistant dean of students and director of residence life.
Many of them — a preliminary head count of 1,470, McCarthy said, exceeding the residence hall population a year ago — are launching the school year by settling this week into the unique rhythms of life on campus. A dorm, he noted, is a distinct sort of community.
“I think the big component we talk about is getting the full college experience. Part of that is living with your peers in a 15-by-15 room,” McCarthy said.
The routine of keeping the door open, dropping in on neighboring students and sharing experiences and ideas can help students grow and flourish. Within a safe environment, they are able to hone their conversational skills and explore their dreams and talents in ways that aren’t always possible in other living situations.
“I think that keeps students feeling engaged and involved in what’s going on,” McCarthy said.
Rachel West, 18, is a freshman who moved into the dorms Wednesday morning. Her day didn’t go completely as planned, but by Wednesday night, she was having a pretty good time along with hundreds of other new students.
That night, hundreds relived what has become a century-old tradition of participating in the annual Torchlight Parade, a short three-block journey that ended at the house of current North Central College President Harold Wilde.
“I locked myself out of my room earlier today, which I guess is part of this being a new experience,” West said. “Our mentors told us this event was something we should definitely plan on attending, and I expect it to be fun.”
Students first met inside Pfeiffer Hall and were welcomed by Dean of Students Kimberly Sluis, who said “this was a night of traditions” and welcomed everyone as a member “of the Cardinal family.” About 15 minutes later, students emerged from the hall as student leaders lit tiki torches and led groups of students down south Brainard Street.
For the 22nd and final time, Wilde greeted his charges and welcomed them to another school year. Wilde will be stepping down at the end of the current calendar year.
“This is the last class I get to greet,” Wilde said as the crowd arrived. “I spoke with and met a lot of them this afternoon and the enthusiasm this year is really high. I met some of their parents who were graduates of some of our rival schools and they told me they were glad their son or daughter was coming here.”
Outside the home he has lived in for half of his married life, Wilde stood atop a small ladder with a microphone in his hand with his wife, Benna, by his side. He promised the Class of 2016 “would be extraordinary.”
“It’s fabulous to have all of you gathered out here for our 151st year as a college,” Wilde said. “This is our last year for my wife and I, but we look forward to coming back for your graduation, and for other generations to come. I’ve never been more confident about this institution and I feel it is in good hands.”
Sophomore Emily Labedz, 19, of Naperville said she remembered the torchlight parade from a year ago and recalled it as something that brought students together.
“My understanding was that this used to be something that was sort of a hazing, but it’s a big part of the tradition of this school and a way to welcome people back,” she said.“I’m playing in the band this year, and we’re going to the stadium after the parade.”
Schaumburg freshman Joey Faleni said he knew the parade was a century-long tradition and said it was a good way to meet people.
“We’re all sort of fired up,” Faleni said. “It’s our first night on campus and a lot of us are ready to go.”