Starting a New Chapter
By Tatiana Sanchez and Tracy Seipel
Santa Clara University celebrates Welcome Weekend 2021. The two-day event marks a significant turning point as students resume their lives on campus after an 18-month absence.
Santa Clara’s quiet gardens and sleepy dorms at last sprung back to life this weekend, as more than 2,400 joyful students moved onto campus to begin the fall quarter (View Photo Gallery).
Marking the university’s first complete move-in since the coronavirus pandemic hit in spring 2020—prompting students to return home and continue their coursework online—first-year, second-year and transfer students settled into their dorms ahead of the new school year, which kicks off Monday and will include in-person classes.
The much-anticipated two-day event caps a devastating 18 months of immense challenges for students and their families.
“It’s a way to welcome not just the students but their families to campus and make sure that they have a smooth transition moving into the residence halls,” said Tedd Vanadilok, director for the Center for Student Involvement. “Even for those who are commuting or living off campus, we want to make sure that they feel welcome. It’s a time to celebrate. Everyone has been itching to get back on campus.”
Dozens of volunteers and staff members welcomed more than 870 second-year and 100 transfer students on Friday, with an estimated 1,490 first-years following on Saturday. Families were invited to attend events scheduled for both days on campus, including men’s soccer games, a vendor fair, and welcome receptions for BIPOC students.
This weekend also witnessed a significant turning point as students resume their lives on campus after being away for the last year and a half. Though an estimated 450 first-year students moved into dorms for the spring quarter, their classes remained solely online and students did not share rooms.
First-year Sowmya Renukuntla ’25 had been counting the hours until she arrived at Sobrato Hall on Saturday.
Like most high school students, the 18-year-old has been sequestered since last March, taking courses online from the Cupertino home she shares with her parents and younger sister.
“I almost forgot the experience of spending time with teachers and kids on campus,” she said. “College is a chance for me to explore a new place, and meet new people, face to face.”
Renukuntla had already been in touch with her roommate, who is from San Jose, also Indo-American, and like Renukuntla, a major Marvel comics/movie fan.
“We met on Instagram,” she recalled. “As incoming first years, you post a picture and a bit of information about yourself. She saw my post and searched me out, and we got to talking and decided to be roommates!”
Her roommate was scheduled to move in first, at 8 a.m., while Renukuntla has the 11 a.m. time slot. She’ll be accompanied by her parents (only two people can help during the 90-minute move-in period), but she hopes her sister can join them afterward to attend festivities for new students on campus.
“It’s really hit me that I’m actually leaving home, but at the same time, I’m also excited to be starting a new chapter in my life,” said Renukuntla.
Typically, Welcome Weekend hosts only first-year and transfer students, but this year’s event will also include sophomores who haven’t had the opportunity to live on campus because of the pandemic.
A 34-person planning committee helped sophomores and their families settle in on Friday.
So momentous is the occasion that it inspired Janice DeMonsi, director of recreation and co-chair of the Sophomore Planning Committee, to volunteer for move-in weekend for the first time in her 19 years at SCU.
“I wanted to welcome them to campus after what was a crazy first year for them,” DeMonsi said. “I really hope to make them feel welcome and excited to be on campus.”
Vanadolik said the weekend will be much slower paced to give students and parents time to spend together.
“We really wanted to focus Welcome Weekend on that true aura of welcoming so that students and their families can be present. It’s really more about taking in the experience because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.”