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Class of ‘Firsts’ Begins at Elmhurst University

September 2, 2020 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

A photo of the Elmhurst University "Gates of Knowledge" at the University's East entrance.Nearly 800 first-year and transfer students are settling in this week as the first group of new students to attend Elmhurst University.

To kick off their Elmhurst journey, most of the students took part in a number of get-acquainted activities during Virtual Orientation 2020. While all of the activities took place online, students received a warm welcome and were able to meet their classmates, get to know the campus, and learn more about themselves and each other.

During New Student Convocation, held via videoconference, President Troy D. VanAken called the students “a history-making group, full of firsts.”

Besides being the first to start at Elmhurst since the institution changed its name from Elmhurst College to Elmhurst University over the summer, about half of the students also are the first in their families to go to college.

And of course, all of the students were among the first in the world to start college during the historic COVID-19 pandemic. Which made them the first to experience Elmhurst’s first virtual New Student Orientation.

Several orientation favorites carried over well online, including College 101 and the Building Inclusive Communities talk by the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, said Samantha Migatz, assistant director of the Niebuhr Center. She was pleased that so many students stayed engaged with the activities all weekend long, acknowledging that it likely wasn’t how students had envisioned the start of their college careers.

“The goal of orientation is for students to become acclimated to campus and more comfortable with college life, and also to start meeting fellow classmates,” said Phil Riordan, vice president for student affairs. “I think our students had fun and did start making some of those connections.”

Now that classes and regular student activities have begun, those connections will only grow.

“As we navigate through this together, I promise you that we’re committed to providing the kind of environment where you can feel comfortable to learn and can really enjoy your college experience,” President VanAken told the students during New Student Convocation.

Before signing off, he shared some fun facts about the newest members of the Elmhurst University community:

  • Safety in numbers: The group includes a few Certified Nursing Assistants, several lifeguards who’ve actually saved lives, a COVID-19 screener and even a student who went undercover with the police.
  • Creative artists: Among the students are competitive dancers, songwriters and musicians, accomplished actors, a makeup artist and a clothing “redesigner.”
  • Competitive streak: One student founded a club lacrosse program; one is a championship bowler; and one claims to be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 30 seconds.
  • Animal whisperers: One student trained her cat to wear costumes and do tricks, and another has a chicken that lays green eggs. (“I hope we never find out what that student is feeding that chicken!” President VanAken said.)

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