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“This Is an Awesome Place”: New Students Start Their Emerson Adventures

While still a student at her Boston high school, Hailey Norton took free classes at Emerson and “fell in the love with the place.”

Three years later, on an August morning, Norton was standing on Boylston Street as her belongings were carted to a room in the brand new 2 Boylston Place residence hall by volunteers wearing pink shirts and varying amounts of accessories. With music thrumming in the background and several of her fellow students dancing around her, Norton was finally at the starting line of her four-year journey as a Writing, Literature and Publishing major.

“I’m excited as heck,” Norton told Emerson College Today. “I’ve been waiting three years, so I’m super happy to be living out my dream.”

Starting before 8:00 am on Monday, August 28, new Emerson students and their families began queuing up their cars along Boylston and Washington streets, where legions of student and staff volunteers (and a T-shirt-clad President Pelton) rushed to unload vehicles, whisk rolling bins full of residence hall décor into residence halls, and keep the intricate dance that Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Duffy calls “controlled chaos” spinning.

This year’s move-in was complicated somewhat by Hurricane Harvey, which was still inundating Southeast Texas with rain as the new Emerson students were arriving on campus. VP and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe said about 40 Texans are assigned to residence halls this year, and half of those are new students.

Hoppe said a number of families changed flights to arrive in Boston early, before planes were grounded, and his office has been working with each affected family individually to accommodate them. The College is also working with returning students, who weren’t scheduled to come back until next week.

“Who knows what the transportation situation is going to be like [next weekend]?” Hoppe said. “It’s hard for students, if a family home has been destroyed or damaged, to just pick up and take off.”

Out on Boylston Street, orientation leaders Kevin Milton, a senior, and Lindsay Simmons, a junior, were helping families with much more run-of-the-mill problems—helping them locate buildings, giving them information about Orientation schedules and events, and just making the new students feel welcome.

“We really try to make the orientation program very hands-on and inclusive,” Milton said, “and it’s one of the best in the country.”

Simmons said her own move-in day, two years ago, is “somewhat of a blur.”

“I very much remember coming up and seeing all the colors, all the orange and purple, lots of tutus, music,” she recalled. “Everyone was super friendly and welcoming.”

Ben Healey, a new Film Production major from Seattle, said he chose to come to Emerson on the strength of its film program, and based on the location—though this was the first time he had ever set foot in Boston, he liked that it was a vibrant city on the water and was looking forward to exploring it.

But first, he had to make a run to Target for bed sheets.

His mother, Linda Peters, was a little more nostalgic about the whole thing. Ben is her third and last child to go off to college on the East Coast. (“They got as far away as they could,” she joked.)

“I’m just kind of holding it together,” she said. “But you’ve got to cut the cord sometime.”

Another Washingtonian, Betsy Carlson of Bainbridge Island, was standing outside Boylston Place, waiting for her daughter, Maddy Garfunkel, to come out. Boston is her (Carlson’s) favorite city, she said, and Emerson was Maddy’s first choice.

Mom and daughter flew out in the teeth of winter, for February’s admitted student weekend, and both knew Emerson was the place to be, Carlson said.

“I teach leadership,” she explained, “and there’s just this leadership energy [at Emerson], and I was like, ‘This is an awesome place.’”


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