By Katie Katella
Separated by their educational school, no more than 125 students stood all around the turf of Lions Stadium on Oct. 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 18th. Each of them carried the College’s patterned bags full of decorated masks, hand sanitizers and a labeled “Lions” thermometer. Everyone wears green bracelets signaling a completed and good health pass. The reason for the occasion: “Spend a Day at TCNJ.”
Covid-19 limited first-year, provisional and transfer students from being able to fully experience being on campus for their first semester. The Class of 2024’s convocation, orientation and Welcome Week were almost completely virtual, and there haven’t been on-campus events since.
To give students a small opportunity to enjoy campus, the Office of Student Transitions instituted “Spend a Day at TCNJ” during the month of October. This day-long program, with six possible dates to attend, gave new students the chance to view campus and meet people within their respective school.
“I feel really sad for the incoming students,” said Jonathan Vogel, a junior chemistry and secondary education dual major who is an orientation leader for incoming students. “It’s so different than any other year’s freshmen or first-year experience is. It was nice to get to be on campus, even if it was just for a few hours.”
During this event, Vogel helped set up presentations for chaperones in Kendall Hall, and said that the College “had a pretty good system for maintaining and maneuvering people effectively and safely.”
Due to the risks of transmitting Covid-19, the Office of Student Transitions established the precautions that must be taken by each student and their allotted chaperone. Precautions include filling out the PAWS health form every day for 10 days leading up to their program date, showing the green health pass at check-in the day of the event and wearing a mask the entire day. When students proved they completed these precautions, they were given a green bracelet demonstrating completion.
Students checked in at Lions Stadium at 10 a.m. and went to the section of the turf to find their orientation leader for the day. After initially meeting on the field, some groups were taken to their own socially distant patches of grass to do ice breakers and get to know each other.
“Coming from a person who is not a fan of ice breakers, I would have to say that it was my favorite part,” said Lyndsey Scherdel, a freshman english elementary education major. “My group leader was very welcoming and made me feel part of the TCNJ community. While doing the ice breakers, she made sure that nobody felt left out and embraced the awkward moments that may have happened.”
The event included a presentation for students in the Mayo Concert Hall where College President Foster and Vice President for Inclusive Excellence James Felton provided a slideshow regarding the Class of 2024, including their diversity, most common majors and percentage of out-of-state students.
“The presentation showcased the diverse community that TCNJ is,” Scherdel said. “It was nice to see all the students’ hometowns, majors, backgrounds and even the percentage of students that have a blackbelt. It made me excited to be part of this community for the next four years.”
Similar to this, chaperones were also taken on campus tours by orientation leaders and provided with information about the College. The panel served as a Q&A session, and involved both Foster and Sean Stallings, the vice president for Student Affairs.
“The panel was basically more about involvement on campus, being within student affairs, resident life or what it’s like to be a student at TCNJ,” said Frank Fabiano, a senior orientation leader and history secondary education dual major who was also a member of the panel. “I think it was beneficial for the parents because they’re more worried about their students, especially being in a virtual environment. We shared that there are some opportunities in the virtual world for them.”
A resources fair was held at the end of the day for students where booths such as Student Government, Center for Global Engagement and the Counseling and Prevention Services handed out different flyers, informative papers and pins.
Overall, “Spend a Day at TCNJ” did the exact goal it set out to accomplish: it provided first-year, provisional and transfer students with the opportunity to explore the College and meet other students, all while taking the right precautions to be safe from COVID-19.
“I think most of all, they really just want a connection to campus,” Fabiano said. “Even if that is visiting for a couple hours and seeing a few other students and professors. They really just want to feel like they’re a student at TCNJ because, especially in this virtual environment, it may seem challenging to get that.”