Do you remember when you were a freshman in college? Hauling the bags, boxes and bins up flights of stairs and down unfamiliar hallways? The mix of excitement, anticipation and nerves was intoxicating, creating an atmosphere unlike any other. For me, that day was many years ago. For the new freshman class at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, that day was yesterday.
The 296 freshmen at Saint Martin’s this year are from Generation Z and the biggest freshman class in the University’s history. This new category is defined as those born between 1996 and 2010. This population makes up over twenty-five percent of the U.S. population, according to Forbes , exceeding Millennials by over a million. Raised in a post-9/11 world and never knowing a time without smartphones, this generation is tech savvy and come from more ethnically, religiously and racially diverse households than ever before. These students also represent a generation focused on the value of education with half predicted to be college educated (compared to one third of millennials) and 64% stating earning an advanced degree as a life goal.
While all these statistics define this generation, one thing defines their first day on campus at Saint Martin’s – excitement.
Outside Parsons Hall, the dorm housing all the resident freshmen, it was a sea of red. Volunteers from the staff, faculty, alumni and current students – including a huge contingent of Saints athletic team members who are already back on campus for practices – were on hand to help unload cars and haul the incoming freshmen’s things to their rooms.
The group worked like a well-oiled – and laughter filled – machine. As parents and students pulled up, they were greeted by the team. Their items were unloaded and labeled by the volunteers with blue painter’s tape listing their room number. Then, many hands truly made light work as the boxes, bags and bins were whisked away into Parsons Hall and to the correct room, ready and waiting when the parents and students parked and made their way inside.
Beds were made, clothes placed in closets, posters hung. Students began to make the dorm rooms their homes. Some parents lingered, helping with the unpacking, but students were eager to begin their new chapter as Saint Martin’s University Saints.
Saint Martin’s diverse programs are a clear draw for the incoming class. And, the class itself is diverse as well. “We have 50-54% students of color and we also have 47% first generation students,” shares Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs, Ph.D., Dean of Enrollment. “We also have more valedictorians in the freshman class than ever before and, a surprising statistic, the number of students from Hawaii is at 46, up from 19 last year.”
When polled, the freshmen shared their intended major, with “undecided” coming out on top. Here are the top 8 majors (in order of most interest to least) in which the 2017 Saint Martin’s freshmen are interested in earning degrees:
- Business Administration
- Mechanical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Criminal Justice
- Computer Science
- Elementary Education
However, life at Saint Martin’s goes far beyond the classroom. And, to help new freshmen learn about life on campus, and in the greater Olympia community, the University has designed an entire welcome weekend full of orientations and activities for students. Students will meet in large and small groups, hear important information from student leaders and faculty, and socialize during meals and organized events.
Key in this “get to know you” period are Saint Martin’s’s Incipio Groups. These small groups, named using the Latin word incipio, meaning to begin, commence or undertake something, are a way for students to form bonds quickly in a small group of like individuals – freshmen on their first day. The groups will meet for meals and learn together with a group leader about life at Saint Martin’s.
Activities for Move-In Weekend include exploring Olympia’s downtown, which also involves a social media photo contest where students are asked to snap photos in four categories and post with #incipio2017 on social media. Keep your eye out on Saturday for the Saint Martin’s freshmen in their Incipio shirts and offer them a friendly welcome to our community. Movie night, a casino night and dance and a root-beer float social round out the weekend’s events.
Saint Martin’s campus wide motto is “Saints Live with Heart.” This is never more evident as during the campus wide welcoming of the new students. One goal of the University from day one is to foster a life lived with heart. “When our students leave Saint Martin’s they are transformed as a person and look to live, play, work and pray with heart. Walk around our campus and students greet you and genuinely care about you,” says Holsinger-Fuchs.
Volunteers, faculty, staff and upperclassmen combine on Move-In Day to ensure the new students know the true heart of Saint Martin’s is its people. And, ensuring they know they have a home on campus where they will feel supported and welcomed.