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Winter 2000

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Table talk:
Sharing thoughts about settling in

Ever eavesdrop on other people’s dinner conversations? Sure you have, and it can be fun, especially with an interesting cast of characters at the table.

For the dinner parties being hosted by President Jamienne S. Studley and husband Gary J. Smith for seven Skidmore freshmen (as reported in the fall '99 Scope), the lineup includes Amy Conyers, the cellist from Georgia; Jeffrey Parker, the environmental studies and music student from Illinois; Eliza NaranjoMorse, the New Mexican who likes art and education; New England athlete Benjamin Eberle; George Comnas, the New Englander with an eye on international service; Oren Kroll-Zeldin, the Californian who’d studied in Israel; and artist Melissa Axelrod, from Cambridge, Mass.

At the first dinner, in September at Scribner House, conversation centered on feelings of newness and first impressions. Here are some highlights:

Gary: Did you all visit Skidmore before you came?

[Yeses all around.]

Jamie: Did you visit your college before you enrolled?

Gary: Yes, a week after they accepted me.

Jamie: And you only applied to two places? Me too. I applied to two and looked at no others. Why did it seem so much easier then? less fraught?

Oren: ’Cuz it was! [Laughter.]

Jamie: I remember thinking of schools in wide bands: good, not so good; here, further away. But we weren’t ranking them or reading about them so closely.

Oren: I knew I wanted to be 3,000 miles away from home. (I love home! I just hate Los Angeles.) So many things about Skidmore appealed to me–liberal studies, and Saratoga, of course.

Amy: Small class size was important to me.

Oren: That’s what I thought, until I got into a 200-person cultural anthropology class.

Amy: You’re kidding! All mine are small.

Oren: It was such a popular course that the professor decided to lift the enrollment limit this year. He expected 80 students and he got 200. So he says he’ll go back to limiting the class size next year.

Jamie: Cultural anthropology? Does it seem interesting?

Oren: Umm . . . yes and no. I know the professor can’t see me, so I could probably sit in a corner and fall asleep or doodle in my notebook . . . .

Jamie: Well, I used to give a big required lecture at Yale, and I realized I could actually tell which item of a crossword puzzle somebody was doing, let alone if they were asleep–you know, there’s something about that tilt of the head . . . . [Laughter.]

Jamie: Were there any particular worries about coming to Skidmore?

Oren: I wasn’t worried about classes . . . I should have been, because classes here are not easy! I have a lot of work. But I’m a pretty worry-free guy in general.

Geordie: I had a lot of experience being away from home. I went to camp for eight years, some of that time working there. I have experience living with a lot of people.

Melissa: For me, the unexpected part was all the small things I didn’t have to do at home. Like, the first day, I thought, "Oh my gosh, I’ll have to do my laundry and all this stuff myself!"

Ben: I was surprised by how little change it’s been for me. I thought my parents would walk away and I’d be, like, "Oh my God, don’t leave me now. What am I going to do?" And it’s never been like that. It fits, it works, I feel perfectly at home–which is really bizarre: I thought there’d be at least a couple moments of trepidation or high anxiety.

Eliza: How have you both settled in?

Jamie: Quickly. Amazingly easily. We moved here in the summer, so we got to know the town before the college was operating.

Gary: With so much going on in town, we got so caught up in it so quickly, there wasn’t time to think about what we were missing back home.

Geordie: How is it you came to Skidmore?

Jamie: Actually, I came looking for Skidmore, though I was a nontraditional candidate–not a professor. But colleges more and more are looking at skills rather than previous career. The head of the Peace Corps, also a lawyer, just became president at Hobart and William Smith, and the new president at RPI was in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This summer, we all went to "new president’s school" at Harvard.

Amy: What did you learn?

Jamie: How to deal with lots of different issues and people–and that you’ll never have time to deal with them all in the way you’d wish. You want to spend time with students, faculty, trustees; go on the road for fundraising, read to stay current with issues . . . .

Gary: Do you guys have any expectations about what a president should be doing? At my college, I met the president opening day and that was the last I saw of him until graduation. I got to know faculty better, and I remember a dean of students who was a pain in the neck.

Ben: I’d like to get to know some of the administrators and deans as well as faculty. I had a very close relationship with my advisor in high school. After college, it’s a big, big world, you know? And getting professional advice will be something I look forward to.

Jamie: Do you feel like you can tell yet where the doors are into the things you want or need?

Jeff: A lot of the professors have been very open, especially in the area I’m interested in. So I would start there.

Jamie: And you’re interested in . . . ?

Jeff: Environmental science, and music and a little hockey.

Oren: Did you go on one of the pre-orientation SCOOP trips in the Adirondacks?

Jeff: I didn’t, no.

Oren: Oh, you should have! It was far and away the greatest decision about coming to college–to do that trip.

Geordie: I did one too. You got to meet a lot of people without worrying about homework or anything.

Oren: I’m pretty outdoors-oriented, so I feel there’s no better place to get to know yourself and other people than in the woods. Three days with 11 Skidmore students out in the wilderness is a way to really bond and form a connection with people who will be your friends for the next four years.

Jamie: What do you think about mixing people from different class years in the dorms?

Melissa: I like it a lot. It breaks the barriers. People don’t just say, "Oh, look, they’re freshmen."

Jamie: Would it be helpful to have some activities to help make connections within each class?

Eliza: I think it happens anyway in the classroom, although I really like having kids in a higher grade in my classes; it’s helpful.

Geordie: There seem to be very few women tripled up in the dorms. I’m sure it has to do with the ratios or something . . . .

Eliza: I’m in a triple.

Oren: Oh, you’re the one female triple in the school! That’s fantastic–I wanted to meet that person! [Laughter.] There were originally two, but I heard that one was detripled because the third roommate didn’t come to school.

Geordie: Well, I’m in one and I like it. I really like both my roommates. We have a nice study area set up, but I couldn’t see hanging out in there, with male or female friends. There’s nowhere to sit at all. I can’t sit on my bed, because I’m on the top bunk.

Oren: Yeah. I’m in the lower bunk, and it’s so dark you can’t sit there and do anything. I utilize the window seat to its fullest!

Jamie: The College has always been able to detriple everyone by the spring semester, but I’ve heard some freshmen say, "No, I couldn’t possibly choose; we like each other too much. I have my study spot in the library. I’m fine."

Oren: That’s a good point. I don’t think any of us would want out–we just love it.

What was the best or worst part of YOUR freshman year?

Name:

Class year, if alum or student:

Email address:

Share your recollections:

Jamie: Are you all into any sports?

Melissa: I ran cross country and played lacrosse. I’m interested in lacrosse here, but I don’t know . . . .

Jamie: Give it a shot.

Geordie: You can always quit, but you can’t always join up. I’ve signed up for novice crew.

Oren: I played water polo in high school. I’m playing ultimate frisbee here–it’s great.

Ben: I played soccer and hockey and was on the sailing team. I just tried out for soccer yesterday. They’re full, but Coach says to come back in the spring.

Eliza: I fly-fish.

Jamie: There’s some great fishing around here. Do you tie flies?

Eliza: I’m learning. It’s really hard.

Jamie: I think the Outing Club does rafting and stuff; I don’t know if they fish. They do want to rapell down Jonsson Tower!

Oren: That would be awesome!

Geordie: You should let ’em do it!

Jamie: Oh, you think so, huh? Well, I passed their request on to Student Affairs.

Gary: Eliza, does the Northeast feel like a whole new world compared to New Mexico?

Eliza: It’s very different. Even the way a lot of the girls from New England say hello has a different tone and rhythm about it. Hopefully in four years I’ll feel really comfortable in this environment and also comfortable at home–that’s cool to know.

Oren: Everyone’s been telling me all these stereotypes they have of California, and I laugh because I’ve got the same ridiculous stereotypes about the Northeast.

Ben: Like what? Uptight?

Oren: Uptight, and everyone’s white, upper-middle class and drives a Saab and wears fleece vests. I doubt any of it is true, because the stereotypes I’ve heard about where I live just crack me up.

Ben: Everyone surfs . . .

Jamie: . . . and is blond and cool.

Oren: I knew I wanted this whole new experience. And everyone seems so open and friendly, and completely different than my friends in Los Angeles. I just love this difference!

Jamie: Any other impressions of the student body generally?

Ben: Alternative, definitely.

Geordie: Generally very liberal.

Oren: Crunchy, very crunchy.

Ben: Yeah, crunchy.

Jamie: And "crunchy" is . . . ?

Oren: Think granola.

Jamie: Aha! OK, just checking!

Geordie: I kind of see that more in the upperclassmen, but I don’t see so much crunchiness in our class. Some are businesslike, some crunchy . . . .

Melissa: That’s what’s so cool about it: you have extreme jocks, but then such different types too.

Geordie: And they all seem to get along.

Oren: I’m finding it difficult to make a set group of friends, because there are so many kinds of people I want to meet. There are the kids on my floor that I love, the kids on my SCOOP trip who were just great, the kids in my classes I’m getting to know, the kids I pass walking to Case Center who I stop to play frisbee or hackeysack with.

Eliza: Right now I’m definitely trying to find people more like me, but I expect that further down the line I’ll want to get to know as many types as possible.

Jamie: It’s still so early. It may seem like forever, but you’ve only been here nine days.

Oren: But we’re so settled in; it’s home.

Jamie: We felt the same thing, even when we were still surrounded by boxes, we just felt at home here and in town.

No sooner had the meal ended (with chocolate cake and glasses of milk) than everybody was trooping through the kitchen and talking about the possibility of cooking their next dinner together themselves. Stay tuned. –SR



© 2000 Skidmore College