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Summer 2000

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Table talk: Skidmore newcomers sum up their freshman year

     What a difference a year makes—even just an academic year. When Jamienne S. Studley, Skidmore’s brand-new president, invited a handful of even newer freshmen to join her and husband Gary J. Smith for three dinners over the course of their first year, the ink was barely dry on the freshman directory. That was early September. By their third meeting, in late April, they had put a lot of names to faces, settled into their study and work rhythms, and even voiced a few complaints. They were ready to throw away the freshman face book and the campus map. They were now insiders, even movers and shakers, in the campus community.

     Along with President Studley and environmental lawyer Smith, the diners were: cellist and budding businesswoman Amy Conyers, from Savannah, Ga.; cellist, hockey player, and environmentalist Jeffrey Parker of Winnetka, Ill.; Eliza NaranjoMorse, a graduate of New Mexico’s Native American Preparatory School who wanted to study art and education; Concord, Mass., athlete Benjamin Eberle, who liked poetry and pottery; George Comnas of Ipswich, Mass., who had done community service abroad and wanted to pursue that kind of work; Cambridge, Mass., artist Melissa Axelrod, also an athlete; and Southern Californian Oren Kroll-Zeldin, who had studied in Israel and helped with an election campaign.

George Comnas ’03:
I feel that I don’t yet have a real core of good friends, but the little bit of loneliness this first year was offset by phenomenal teachers. First semester, I rowed crew, which I think helped me with self-motivation. I quit crew because it took too much time and I wanted better grades, but I think I did learn to thrive by myself.

Jeff Parker ’03:
I made a slow start finding sports activities, but by the second semester I got into snowshoeing and skiing. Along with environmental studies (I want to start an environmental journal here), the Music Department has been a gateway for me. So far my greatest experience was being in a string quartet—with three seniors—and rehearsing and giving a recital.

Melissa Axelrod ’03:
I hadn’t really anticipated the social and emotional adjustments. The second semester got much easier.

I had a car first semester, so I went home more often; but having no car the second semester kind of forced me to detach from home life and helped me focus my energy and attention here. I planned on an art major, but I’m confused now—I also want to try social work or sociology.

Oren Kroll-Zeldin ’03:
The year just got better and better. I got involved in the Jewish student union, ultimate frisbee, the outing club. And this spring six of us, all freshmen, made a proposal to start a “Jewish culture” theme house to help activate Jewish life on campus. We had to give a presentation and make our case—and we got accepted!

Eliza Naranjo-Morse ’03:
It was inspiring to see every- body get excited about being here. But I learned that the East isn’t where I want to be, and I learned that it does matter to me not to have any Native community here. So now I know what I need. I can’t decide yet whether to transfer: the arts program here is unbeatable, but will I be unhappy for four years? I’ll come back next semester and see what I think.

Amy Conyers ’03: I hated LS 1—I want to burn the book now that it’s over! For my lab science requirement I tried exercise science, which was hard, but the professor was so great that I loved it. And I liked my business courses: I really care about doing the readings, I want to do the work. I want to major in business-economics, and I’d like to do a summer internship in investment.

Ben Eberle ’03:
I found it an easy, easy adjustment coming here. It was interesting to watch how the president adjusted. In September she seemed very professionally oriented and eager to get things done. At our second dinner I was impressed with how involved and knowledgeable she was—that marked her character for me. And at the third she got more loose and more engaged with the students.

Gary Smith:
I was impressed with the students’ poise and courage—Skidmore freshmen start with a lot of tools when they get here. A couple of them went through some lonely times, but they seemed to end up much more grounded. For me, the move was easier than I expected, especially since telecommuting with my law practice has worked just fine. Now I’m eager to get involved in more projects in the local community.

Jamie Studley:
As we came to see, and eventually begin to sort out, the complications of our new lives, what struck a chord for all of us was the need to balance our use of time—what’s most important, what do we not have time for? Those are hard choices. Also, as the students faced challenges and processed their experiences, I was struck by their affection and loyalty and interest in making Skidmore better.


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