Stan State students unpack, meet the president

Families who pulled into the dorm parking lot at California State University, Stanislaus for move-in day found rolling carts, willing helpers – and even bottled water and handshake from the college’s new president.

“I never met the other president – and here you are!” graduate student Jessica Contreras told President Ellen Junn.

Contreras was one of 90 student volunteers from clubs and teams Wednesday pitching in to schlep bedding, boxes and all the rest. About 20 student staffers and resident advisers were also rolling heavy-laden carts.

Beside Junn, junior Nai Saephan was cheering. “I’m Asian. You’re giving me hope,” she told Junn, saying she wants to be a university president some day. Junn is Korean American, and one of only six university presidents in the nation of Asian heritage, Saephan said.

“I heard great things. But to meet her right now – everything was right. She seems like a great lady,” said basketball player Timothy “Timbo” Thymes, who towered over Junn as she introduced herself and asked how his day was going.

“She’s the first president since Marvalene Hughes to come to move-in day,” said Jennifer Humphrey, director of housing and residential life. This year, on-campus housing has 726 residents, about half of which are freshmen, with most unpacking Wednesday.

Humphrey coordinated the unloading teams, noting the service is unusual in the CSU system . “It’s one of the unique things we do,” she said, “And we can only do it because of all the volunteers.”

Volunteer Yovani Esparza of Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity, almost hidden behind a towering pile of tech and toilet paper he was pushing, said the day brought back memories. “It reminds me of when I moved into the dorms five years ago,” Esparza said.

“My mom loves packing,” said freshman Karamjit Saini of Stockton with a shrug of his shoulders. Saini and his dad also had their arms full leading the small parade from car to dorm room.

“Moving into a new place gives you a mixture of two feelings – it’s exciting, but nerve wracking. Because you know that the next day when you wake up, your parents aren’t going to be there,” Saini said.

A few doors down, freshman Elizabeth Tredway of Oakdale sat surrounded by pictures of family and her horse. Her bed sported an extra mattress pad and a tall pile of coordinated pillows. Peering over the top were stuffed animals, including a well-loved rhino she got as a toddler and the Build-a-Bear she and friends made as dates for their senior prom.

“I just super-excited,” said Tredway. “It’s nice because I’m kind of close to home, but far enough so I’m not going to go home to do laundry,” she added with a laugh.

Wednesday would be a packed day for the newcomers, with an afternoon sales event at the university bookstore, a free tri-tip dinner for 900 on the big lawn in front of the dorms, mandatory floor meetings and an all-dorm community meeting from 8-10 p.m.

Welcome Week 2016 – #7daysofepic – continues Thursday with games and fun mixed in with rules and information. Serious talk about personal safety and consensual sex (a proactive approach to rape prevention) will be offered, followed by a dodgeball tournament. Academic advising time comes before dinner and a free game night.

The rest the week includes emergency preparedness, money management, stress reduction and a Saturday “Village Olympics” student run. To get familiar with their surroundings, residents can take part in campus tours and a services-center scavenger hunt, and to get to know the town, a cellphone Turlock photo contest.

On Monday the University Convocation will gather the 1,300-plus members of the new Class of 2020 for a ceremonial welcome and nudge toward on-time graduation.

“We’ve found having them finish in four years is the best way for them to get through,” said Suzanne Espinoza, vice president of enrollment and student affairs. “They get through, save a little money, get on with life. Go on to graduate school or go on to their career,” she said.

“It also opens up space for the next group,” she added, “We’re starting to have high demand.”

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin