Summer Sendoffs Welcome the Incoming Pride to Their Widener Network
“Everything feels much more real now,” Rachel Levin mused as she surveyed the crowd in the Stadium Club at the Philadelphia Union. Her fellow incoming Widener students mingled with alumni and admissions counselors amidst blue and gold balloons as they said goodbye to summer and hello to college life in a big way.
This July and August, a new series of Summer Sendoff events sponsored in partnership by the alumni engagement and admissions teams brought together incoming students like Levin and their families to meet future and current alumni of the Pride and get a taste of what it means to be a part of the Widener community. It’s a community that will grow substantially with the arrival of a large incoming class this month.
“We wanted to host these events so our incoming students know early on that they have an amazing and vibrant Widener network,” Jessica Lista, executive director of alumni engagement said. “We feel connections made at these gatherings between fellow classmates and with alumni will enrich the student experience ahead of their official first day on campus.”
To kick off these sendoffs, Trustee Jim Mack ’85 and Debra Kurucz welcomed the Widener community into their Montgomery County living room for an evening in mid-July. Mack spoke to the class of 2027 on his multi-generational Widener experience and all the connections his family has to the university community. Students exchanged numbers and social media info as they sat on comfy couches and made one-on-one connections in the home of a proud Widener alum.
‘Warm, Fuzzy Feeling of Belonging’
For the second sendoff event, incoming students and their families were invited to the Stadium Club at the Philadelphia Union’s Subaru Park. Looking out over the soccer stadium and Delaware River on a mild August evening, guests mingled and grew excited about all the opportunities Widener has to offer them.
President Stacey Robertson was one of those mingling guests, personally greeting as many students and families as she could before giving some general remarks to the crowd. She noted that as the official higher education partner of the Union, Widener is teeming with opportunities for students to get involved in internships, job shadowing, and volunteering with the team.
Getting involved and asking for help were two key themes of her remarks.
“Being in college is so much more than what happens in the classroom. Of course, we want you to study hard and succeed academically, but I also hope you find time to step outside your comfort zone and find something that will bring you joy and help you grow,” she said. “We’ve embraced the theme of belonging at Widener and it’s our responsibility to make sure that each and every one of you feels that you belong. All you need to do is ask for help when you need it and we’ll be there for you.”
That feeling of belonging is what brought Levin and her dad Franklin to the Union sendoff that night. After going on over a dozen college tours, the Levins found the caring culture of the Widener community stood out to them.
“The amount of assistance and support we’ve felt already has been amazing,” Franklin Levine said.
Rachel agreed. As an exploratory studies student, she’s open to trying out all that Widener can offer her and can’t wait to get started. “I like the feeling of family I get here. I’m a people person so I’m excited to get to know the community,” she said.
Similarly, Aaron Langnas and his dad Noah spoke of the feeling of welcomeness that kept them coming back to Widener events until Aaron officially enrolled in the mechanical engineering program.
Noah Langnas said that while metrics like student-to-faculty ratio and average income for graduates were important for him and Aaron to consider, that “warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging” they got at Widener made the college decision easy in the end.
Aaron noted that he’s met Widener alumni everywhere, including his martial arts instructor, and he was excited to meet more people at the Union sendoff event.
“I’ve been told by a lot of people that Widener alums are very involved and make great connections,” he said. “As a mechanical engineer, having those connections is going to be vital.”
Already a Part of the Pride
Those alumni connections defined the final sendoff event, hosted by Trustee Tim Speiss ’83 ’89 at Seasons 52 in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Widener has exceptional alumni support, so if there are alumni coming to campus to speak, go get involved and meet them,” Speiss remarked to the crowd. “You’re going to learn a lot about what they do and expand what you think is possible in your future profession.
“I envy you,” Speiss concluded. “You’re at the beginning of a phenomenal journey at a great university. I hope you find your passion and know that being adaptive is a good thing.”
Adapting to college is a major life transition, but there was no feeling of students being overwhelmed at these sendoff events. Alumni assured them that the residence hall rooms actually aren’t so tiny, as parents talked with each other about all the changes to come. Soon-to-be nursing student and trumpeter Larissa Tumminia met Andrew Bergin, an incoming civil engineering student and saxophonist, and they chatted about their upcoming band camp. They’re both more excited than daunted at the prospect of beginning college, and much of that positivity comes from events like these sendoffs.
Elyse Walker, an incoming creative writing student, said at the Union sendoff that she was “excited to start college and learn about the culture and family at Widener and become a part of it.”
But her presence at the sendoff means that she’s already contributing to and a part of the Widener family.
“Folks are sticking around and eating and enjoying themselves,” Marcus Bagby, associate director of alumni engagement remarked at the conclusion of the Seasons 52 sendoff. “I’d say that’s a successful evening.
“Going off on this new phase of your life is a major milestone, so giving students as well as their parents and families a taste of community and a sense that things aren’t as scary as they seem is something we’re honored to provide,” Bagby said.