Hartwick College welcomes students with ceremony

Aug. 24—In a ceremony much like what most of them will repeat in four years at graduation, Hartwick College's incoming class of 2027 gathered Thursday for opening convocation — an official welcome to new students of the college.

On Wednesday, new students moved into their residence halls, assisted by members of the college's football team who lugged bags and furnishings into the dorms.

The class of 2027 also participated Wednesday in the tradition of signing their names in the school's matriculation book, pledging to be active and responsible students.

The book was presented during Thursday's opening convocation by two of the new students, Jasmine LaVare and Luca Montesano. The book is kept in Hartwick President Darren Reisberg's office.

The convocation, held on Frisbee Field between Yager and Dewar halls, landed on the second day of Wick Week — five days of school-wide events and activities meant to welcome and settle students before classes start Monday.

Another welcoming tradition for first year students is the evening candlelit First Walk up Founders' Way on Sunday, which the they repeat in their final year as Last Walk.

Reisberg, who became president of Hartwick in August 2022, said Thursday after the convocation had completed that it was great to hear students say that the incoming class seems so big.

"I think the students are feeling really excited," he said, "to be able to meet their new roommates, their friends, and it seems like they're happy with the activities that have been set up for them."

He added that he's been hearing many students who are "excited to tell you what they're planning on majoring in."

"That's a good sign that they're really thinking about their classes," he said.

The college is still committed to helping students whose high school experience was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic transition from high school to higher education.

"We're still wanting to be very vigilant," he said, "especially with students who still have experienced high school with COVID, there is always this challenge which we continue to see."

The new students may have had less opportunity to grow socially and emotionally because their lives have been so colored by the pandemic.

"For many of our students, this is a big change," he said, "I think bigger than what change was even like pre-pandemic."

To ensure that the school is investing in supports and safety nets that help students, Hartwick offers a guidance program called FlightPath in which faculty advisors and career coaches offer advice and keep students on track.

New students settle in

The total number of students at Hartwick this fall totals 1,108 — one-third of whom make up the class of 2027.

Applications from first years and transfers totaled 4,690 — a 12% increase from last year. Of those, HartLand Promise program applications totaled 305 — 20% higher than last year.

HartLand Promise allows eligible students of Otsego County and the seven surrounding counties to apply to Hartwick and if accepted will pay the same tuition and fee rates as state public colleges, provided that the students live on the Hartwick campus.

Freshman Jordan Earl, 17, of Unadilla, was accepted to Hartwick under HartLand Promise. He chose the school partly because it's his mother's alma mater, but also because of Hartwick's reputation of a private school that's a good private school.

"I thought that it would just be the best decision," he said. "I'm studying biology, but my end goal is to be a pediatrician."

His mother, Shirley Earl, is a nurse practitioner for Bassett Healthcare Network.

"I've just exploring new things, making new friends," he said. "It's a whole new lifestyle for me. Everything is new, so I've just been enjoying it as much as I can."

As of Wednesday, Hartwick reported having 415 new students for the fall 2023 semester, an increase of 13% from last year.

Of these students, 368 are domestic first-year students, 39 are domestic transfer students and eight are international first-year and transfer students — all categories that increased from last year.

The incoming class plans to major in 29 subjects, and come to Hartwick from 23 states and eight countries including The Bahamas, Georgia, Ghana, Jamaica, the West Indies, Nepal, Nigeria and Mexico.

Transfer student Jenna Scribner, 19, of Wells, enrolled at Hartwick as a sophomore from Cazenovia College, a small private college which closed on June 30.

Scribner, an English major, said she chose to transfer to Hartwick for the school's similar size and programs. Although she's enjoying exploring the campus, she said she is looking forward to Monday the most.

"I want classes to start," she said.

The opening convocation ceremony included many of the features of a graduation — processional and recessional, musical interludes, speeches from the school's top brass and prominent students.

The Hartwick faculty brass ensemble played the musical interludes.

The Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums, of Binghamton, lead the faculty and department heads — wearing their regalia complete with robes, hoods and caps — from Yager Hall to the back of a tent on Frisbee Field, which shielded the participants from the light rain that began to fall just as the processional began, almost on cue.

Faculty and staff cheered for the hundreds of students as they walked down to the field and into the tent.

Dr. Bryan Gross, Hartwick's vice president for enrollment management, gave some statistics on the incoming class of 2027.

"You have an impressive array of academic accomplishments that have helped bring you to this moment," he said, "with a high school GPA average of 3.4, an average SAT of 1082 and an average ACT of 37.3."

Gross also relayed the results of a just-for-fun survey that the school sent to the incoming class, to which more than half of the students responded.

The top music artists or bands were Taylor Swift, Luke Combs, Post Malone and Ice Spice. Favorite movies of the past year included "Barbie," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" and "Scream VI," and favorite TV shows in the past year included "Stranger Things," "Friends" and "The Last of Us."

Ideal vacations include staying at home with family and friends and relaxing, sightseeing in Europe and relaxing on a beach. Favorite study abroad locations include Japan, England and Spain.

Finally, the class answered that what excited them most about starting college was make new friends and have fun, by the largest percent of any question asked in the survey.

"I feel like I know you so much better now," said Dr. Laurel Bongiorno, Hartwick's vice president for academic affairs and provost, who began her speech after Gross concluded.