Orientation 2021 in Pictures

Photos by Maria Stenzel, Jianing Li, and Harufumi Nakazawa ’24; text by Stephanie Ramírez

Students wave welcome signs during move-in day

Joyous energy and palpable excitement filled campus as new students and their families arrived for move-in day on August 25. After a brief stop at the COVID-19 testing center, they drove up to the first-year quad and were greeted by a loud and enthusiastic group of returning students holding signs. “Welcome Home!” one sign announced. “Honk if you love your Mammoth!” instructed another. 

 

Families pose for photos during move-in day

Above left: Mina Enayati-Uzeta ‘25 and parents Jaime Uzeta and Amanda Enayati

Amanda Enayati, mother of Mina Enayati-Uzeta '25, teared up as she talked about moving her eldest child to Amherst from Los Angeles. “I’m feeling very emotional, because I am an immigrant American. It’s the first time in my family that someone is moving with intention,” she said. Enayati said that she'd fled the Iranian Revolution as a child, and did not have her parents to move her into college. Mina’s father, Jaime Uzeta, described the Amherst move-in as a “typical college experience,” one he had seen on TV but had not experienced himself growing up on the border of the United States and Mexico.

Top right: Jack McDermott '25 and family: father Ken, mother Maureen and brother Noah 

From Yardley, Pa., Jack McDermott '25 and his family drove five hours to campus and arrived the day before move-in. His mother, Maureen, said she was emotional the night before as she thought about dropping him off. But on move-in day, she only felt excitement. A prospective statistics major and member of the baseball team, Jack was attracted to Amherst because of its campus size and smaller community. As luck would have it, his roommate, Ben, is also a member of the baseball team.

Bottom right: Neil Kapur '25 and parents Anju and Sanjiv

Originally admitted to the class of 2024, Neil Kapur '25 deferred for a year, because of the pandemic, and instead worked as a tutor and as a page at a library. Because only students could enter residence halls this year, his mother, Anju, peered through his first-floor window to help him arrange his furniture. It was a busy time for the family: the weekend before, they'd moved Neil’s twin sisters into Emory University and Oxford College of Emory University.

 

Student walking past the war memorial on the Amherst College campus

The class of 2025 returned from Memorial Hill after posing for a physically distanced class photo.

 

students participating in orientation activities

Divided into "squads," students played games and activities to get to know one another. Squads are small communities of new and transfer students, led by an orientation leader. Squad meetings serve as an introduction to the campus community. In one activity, students tossed around a colorful ball. The ball was covered with icebreaker-questions written in Sharpie: “What’s a good book you’ve read recently?,” “Do you have any pets?,” “What was your least favorite food as a kid?” and “Is water wet?” 

 

Professor Shayla Lawson delivering the DeMott lecture to first year students

President Biddy Martin welcomed the Class of 2025 and transfer students in an outdoor ceremony on the first-year quad. “There is no one who knows it all,” she said, reminding students that they do not need to be perfect; they only need to be themselves. In her speech, she spoke about the value and goals of a liberal arts education, quoting from author Bill Cronin’s essay “Only Connect.” Shortly thereafter, as part of an annual tradition, students shared the three words that stood out most to them during the president’s speech. Community was at the heart of their responses.

On Aug. 28, at the annual DeMott Lecture, Assistant Professor of English Shayla Lawson told students that failure is not the opposite of success. “What you don’t succeed in accomplishing in your lifetime is not a failure,” she said. “It is you doing your part to pave the way.” Lawson’s memoir, This is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope, was the assigned summer reading for the 542 new students.

 

faculty in regalia during convocation 2021

On Aug. 29, Opening Convocation featured almost all of its traditional elements but was held outdoors rather than in Johnson Chapel, to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.

students and faculty meet for convocation 2021

“There’s so much hope in your avidity to learn,” President Biddy Martin said to the crowd of students and faculty at Opening Convocation. She talked about “the thing with feathers”--hope--from an Emily Dickinson poem. During the ceremony, four professors--Sara J. Brenneis, Jen Manion, Katharine Sims and Christopher van den Berg--received honorary master of arts degrees. The Choral Society opened and closed the ceremony with the songs “Three Gifts” and “Hymn to Amherst.”

  first year students walking past frost library

A student smiles behind their mask at Opening Convocation.

 

a student in a field of flowers on the book and plow farm

During Orientation, students participated in centering and decompression activities, including visits to the student-focused campus farm, Book & Plow. Some students picked flowers to make bouquets for their rooms.

two students working on the book and plow farm

Other students picked cherry tomatoes and dug carrots. The campus farm is a major food source for Amherst’s dining hall.

 

books and supplies for a book sculpting project

Students also created "solidarity books." As Amherst celebrates its Bicentennial, the Solidarity Book Project is the inspiration of  Sonya Clark '89,  the Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and professor of art and the history of art. She developed the project as one way for the College to recommit to a more equitable future for Black and Indigenous communities. It calls on community members to select a book that speaks to them about solidarity and then, using a template, to carve the iconic solidarity fist into the book’s pages. Last spring, the project raised $100,000 for nonprofit organizations that support the education of Black and Indigenous people.

 

students learn how to sculpt a book for the solidarity book project

Clark (in green shirt) guided students as they used a template, scissors and a pencil to craft solidarity books.

 

a close up of fine book sculpture showing a closed fist carved into the pages of the book

In a Q&A about the effort, Clark explained the significance of the solidarity fist and the overall project: “It’s about the complexity of community. There is not one Amherst; there are many Amhersts. How do we wrap our arms around all that Amherst is at its best? How do we call out the things that are not Amherst’s best and make sure we don’t replicate those things, but learn from those things? To learn ways to make Amherst better—that is in fact an act of solidarity.”