By Kelly K. Nelson ’10
The picturesque ascent up College Avenue toward Old Main on first-year student move-in day is a vivid image seared into the memory of many Gusties.
As a new student, whether you were squirming anxiously in your seat, biting your fingernails nervously, or already saying your goodbyes gleefully to Mom and Dad, there’s one constant: being energetically welcomed by an enthusiastic group of upperclass students to the place that becomes home for four years.
“What I heard from many parents and first-year students on move-in day was how welcoming the Gustavus community is,” says Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Jeff Stocco. “From the moment they drove onto campus, through the move-in process, until they left after the session in Chapel, they felt that they had become a part of some larger community that is Gustavus. This welcome to ‘the conversation that is Gustavus’s is in no small part made possible by the work of the Gustie Greeters.”
The Gustie Greeters are a group of 50 upperclass students representing various facets of student life at Gustavus. They are selected to come together with the common goal to plan, organize, and lead New Student Orientation. Greeters take on the responsibility of easing the first-year students’ transition to college.
“My Greeter went above and beyond her job description. The weekend after orientation, I began feeling pretty homesick. Something I didn’t expect to happen. However, when I texted my Greeter Katie (Cummings ’10) and told her this, she was outside my door in a matter of minutes. She picked me up and proceeded to spend the entire evening with me, introducing me to her friends and becoming someone on whom I could depend,” recalls student Audrey Willems Van Dijk. “I am so grateful that she was there to help me through my toughest of transitions.”
Johanna Olmstead, a 2010 graduate and three-year Gustie Greeter, explains that the role of Greeters during orientation is to help the new students find their individual places at Gustavus, introducing them to all the possibilities. She emphasizes that “all of the time and care we put into all the things that we do—all of the planning, training, and development—is us facilitating those moments for them and keeping that
in mind as we do it,” she says. “We do this so they can have those moments and experiences.”
The Gustie Greeters are unique to Gustavus. And, their intentions are golden. That is, to create the first of many unforgettable memories. “I talked to a lot of my other friends who went to other colleges and none of them had an organization like the Gustie Greeters,” says Claire Koukol ’13. “It’s also great to have a Greeter, because they are older than you, they know all of the tricks and can give you tips about everything at Gustavus.”
Bonnie Hilmoe ’12 is grateful for the opportunities she was able to have with her Greeter group. “The Gustie Greeters, particularly my Greeter Jaimie (Farel ’10), were a catalyst to adjusting to the college environment. By immersing us in constant events and activities, all the anxiety and tension revolved around a great change was alleviated,” Hilmoe says.
“Our excitement hopefully rubs off on people. We can show them how much we love this place and how much Gustavus and Greeters mean to us,” says Matt Schueffner, a 2010 graduate and Greeter for three years.
The Gustie Greeters is a volunteer position and Greeters come back to campus early at the end of the summer, sacrificing a few weeks of precious summer vacation. Schueffner believes this shows Gustavus in its true light. “Greeters volunteer their time just because they love what they are doing and the place they are representing. It just shows the community we have here and that there is someone there supporting you.”
“Among many other things, what I love most about Greeters is how invested they are in this place,” says Stocco. “The depth of their involvement and commitment to Gustavus are evident in the way they interact with students and how they carry themselves.”
The most impactful Greeter moment for Olmstead was, after her first year of being a Gustie Greeter, when one of her Greetees was “really in his element at Gustavus.” She says, “He was becoming involved in a group on campus and I saw him enjoying that. I saw him find his own place and start to get something out of the school.”
Greeters have the amazing benefit of not only helping the first-year students but also getting to promote a place they feel so passionately about, while simultaneously gaining some lessons about themselves. Through Greeters, Schueffner discovered that’s “how I want to feel all the time. I want to find some profession or something that can give me that great feeling: helping people, the camaraderie.”
“The Greeter feeling,” Olmstead adds with a smile.
“It’s a different caliber of a place,” says Schueffner of Gustavus, “The care is there and the personal touch.”
Here’s a short video clip of some Gustie Greeters welcoming first-year students on 2010 move-in day:
And, here’s a slightly longer (3-minute) video with first-year student move-in day comments:
Also, view more 2010 move-in day photos in the Gustavus Adolphus College Flickr