Excitement was in the air on Aug. 9 as Bennett College held its opening day of New Student Orientation Week.
Freshwomen and transfer students from throughout North Carolina and the country ascended on Bennett, which expects to have a record number of new students this fall. Classes begin on Monday, Aug. 20.
“Members of the class of 2022, can you believe you’re actually in college?” President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins asked students inside the iconic Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel. “Each of you took different paths to get here and most – if not all of you – probably thought this day would never arrive. Well guess what? It has. You’re now members of the class of 2022!”
Dawkins mentioned the Academic Cultural Enrichment Series, or ACES, the College’s robust International Program, its Choir and also clubs, organizations and sororities while encouraging students to take advantage of every opportunity Bennett affords.
“I pray each of you is excited to be here, and by the looks on your faces I suspect you are,” Dawkins said. “Take advantage of your faculty members and their expertise. Ask questions in class and after class if necessary to ensure you’re able to adequately grasp the subject matter. You’re here to obtain a first-rate education, so please understand there are no stupid questions. If you need to know something, ask. Also, don’t be shy about seeking out staff members who can help you navigate your way around campus. The transition from high school to college can be difficult. You don’t have to go it alone.”
Although she was serious, Dawkins infused humor into her remarks.
“Tonight, perhaps for the first time, you won’t sleep under the same roof with your parents,” she said. “You may call or text them before you lie down, just don’t ask them to come get you.”
Dawkins also stressed that she wants the students to work and study hard to ensure they graduate on time in 2022. “I don’t want to see you here in 2023,” she said to chuckles.
After Dawkins spoke, members of her Leadership Team addressed the students and their parents. Gisele Abron, associate vice president for enrollment management/registrar, talked to the parents about FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents College officials from disclosing information about students’ grades to their parents without written consent if the students are 18 and older.
Leroy Summers, vice president for business and finance/CFO, provided a facilities update and encouraged students to respond to emails from the business office about their accounts.
Dr. Anne Hayes, senior advisor to the president/associate vice president for administrative services, said Bennett was recently announced as the second safest campus in the state. She encouraged the new students to be mindful of their surroundings and to always exercise caution when leaving their residence halls – particularly at night. “If you see something, say something,” Hayes said. “At Bennett College, we are our sisters’ keepers.”
Dr. Dorothy C. Browne, provost and vice president for academic affairs and a member of the Bennett College class of 1969, echoed Dawkins by encouraging the students to attend the weekly ACES series and to put away their cell phones during the hour-long presentations.
“I used to sit were you’re sitting and sometimes thought ACES was boring, but when I went to graduate school I realized how valuable it was to me,” said Browne, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work and a master’s and Ph.D. of Public Health from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Lorraine Acker, associate vice president for student affairs, reminded the young ladies about the importance of attending all of the New Student Orientation Week events. She highlighted a few of them before asking the Bennett College student leaders to address the crowd.
The girls cheered and clapped as they entered the chapel, and they received thunderous applause as they energetically introduced themselves by name, classification, hometown and their leadership positions.
Registration continues through Saturday, Aug. 18.
As part of New Student Orientation Week, students will attend the Casual White Breakfast – a Bennett College tradition – on Aug. 17 in the Sallie Walker Brown Dining Hall. They will also continue another Bennett tradition by attending St. Matthews United Methodist Church on Aug. 19, the day before the first day of classes.