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SUNY Potsdam springs to life on move-in day

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POTSDAM — The long lines of traffic and students hauling heavy boxes up stairs to their dormitory rooms Friday morning emphasized that the lazy days of summer were waning fast.

On SUNY Potsdam’s campus, awash with the school’s maroon and white colors, the frenzied activity of the annual move-in day made a dizzying spectacle for the school’s nearly 920 incoming freshmen.

At Bowman Hall, a towering dormitory on campus, parents exchanged tearful embraces with their children, soliciting oaths to call, write or text home before saying goodbye. For freshman Bronx native Kiron L. Birch, the goodbyes were said before boarding a bus bound for Potsdam.

“They’ve already called me and texted me,” he said. “Our breaks will be the only time I’ll get to see them. The longest I’ve been away from them before has been about two weeks.”

SUNY Potsdam provided students help moving into dorms. Incognito in a maroon hat and white T-shirt, college President John F. Schwaller helped eight or nine students move in.

“First-year students are the lifeblood of our college,” he said. “Getting move-in help from your college president is just another part of a handcrafted education.”

Mr. Schwaller said helping new students with the move has become one of his annual traditions.

“Two years ago, I had to help an arts student carry a bunch of painting supplies, including an easel, up to the seventh floor,” he said. “That taught me to stay over here by the lower dorms. I would do this all day, but I also have that pesky day job.”

Upstairs, Windy Grant, a senior, was also helping students and families find their way.

“I’m sore, but I’m definitely having fun,” she said. “A lot of students and families don’t have a lot of people to help them. This is a good way to introduce them to campus, and this way they get to know people.”

Incoming freshman MacKenzie N. Shaffer said the help provided by staff and upperclassmen was indispensable.

“My mom found a sophomore and a junior to help us bring things upstairs,” she said. “Those two girls helped a lot.”

Ms. Shaffer said social media gave her a head start in finding out about her roommate.

“We met via the Class of 2016 page of Facebook,” she said. “I went to her birthday party a few months ago. Technology nowadays definitely helps.”

For the Westchester County native, just making it to the Potsdam campus was the fulfillment of a dream.

“I wanted to attend college so badly that when I was 10 years old I wanted to go to a boarding school,” she said. “As soon as I visited Potsdam, I knew I had to come here.”

Down the hall, Mr. Birch was settling into his sparsely furnished room.

“I figured I wouldn’t need much,” he said. “I’ll spend a lot of time in class or outside.”

A walk down the narrow dormitory corridors showed students struggling to lift television sets and suitcases, mothers teaching their sons to properly make their own beds and walls being festooned with posters, paintings and other cultural ephemera.

Residence life staff member Aidan L. Talbot warned students against covering more than 50 percent of their walls with posters lest they become a fire hazard, giving a three-minute spiel on fire safety to incoming students in the hall’s common area.

“You can’t have extension cords, but you can use power strips,” he said. “Just don’t plug one power strip into another, or you’re going to create the same problem.”

At the Barrington Student Union, a line of students waiting to buy books wrapped around the atrium. The SUNY Potsdam Bookstore facilitates students’ purchases by cross-referencing their class sections with the requisite textbooks, making the arduous process of buying books a little less painful, but still expensive.

Incoming freshman Efrain Perez said he spent $274 for three books.

“When I thought about it, it wasn’t really that bad,” he said. “I thought it was going to cost around $300.”

Mr. Perez, a Bronx native, said SUNY Potsdam’s low student-teacher ratio attracted him.

“I like the small classroom environment,” he said.

The students have a scant period to become acclimated — their classes begin Monday.

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