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Southern Illinois University Chancellor Austin A. Lane moved his leg from the accelerator of the golf cart to the brake.

As that happened, his left pant leg rode up, showing off the maroon socks he had chosen for the day – ones featuring school mascot Salukis.

“That’s a legacy, right there,” he called out Thursday, stopping to chat with an SIU alumnus who, with his wife, was on campus helping their son move into to an on-campus residence hall. “A second-generation Saluki! Check out these socks!”

Breaking the ice with a smile, Lane talked about area attractions, programs for students and welcomed the freshman from near Effingham to the “Saluki family.”

After a few more minutes with them, he wished them a good afternoon and guided his golf cart along the sidewalks of campus, waving and speaking to everyone he met, often stopping to chat with other incoming freshmen, offering them a break between trips into their buildings, carrying boxes, clothing and essentials including mini refrigerators and microwaves.

It’s a day that Lane has been eager for since becoming chancellor of the Carbondale campus: the return of students to campus for in-person classes.

“I kind of have chills because we are able to finally see our students and we’ve worked so hard to get here,” Lane said. “We really are excited to be back.”

Residence halls opened Thursday for new students, while returning students who live on campus will return in the next several days in anticipation of the beginning of the fall semester Monday.

It will be the first in-person instruction on the campus since late 2020 due to the pandemic.

SIU Senior Associate Director of Housing James Hunsaker said in all, about 2,300 students will be moving into on-campus housing. Thousands more are returning to apartments and rental houses throughout the area.

“It feels really good to have the energy of students back on campus,” said Emily Spann, director of new student programs. “It means everything to have the students back. It kind of feels like Christmas.”

Many of the new students were excited, too. On one of his many trips across campus in the golf cart, Lane gave incoming freshman Gracie Harwood, of Eldorado, a ride to the campus’s parking office.

“Move-in all went really smooth,” she told him. “I had lots of helpers with me this morning, so it went really well.”

Students were assisted by moving volunteers by SIU registered student organizations. Traditionally, local civic leaders and church groups assist, too, but Spann said fewer volunteers were recruited this year due to lingering COVID-19 concerns.

Still, Lane said the first day of student move-in went very smoothly.

Harwood told the chancellor she was grateful not only for the golf cart ride, but also for a scholarship to study art education and she was happy to be at SIU.

“I love the campus. I’m really excited,” she said.

In Smith Hall near Campus Lake, Ava Strokosch, of Oak Park, had almost completed her unpacking by early afternoon. A freshman in business advertising and marketing, she said a campus tour during the pandemic sold her on SIU.

“I’ve only been here twice – now and once for a tour. I really enjoyed that. I just walked on campus and I knew this was where I wanted to go,” she explained, adding she was glad to be on campus rather than studying remotely.

“I’m excited to actually be able to walk across campus, to have in-person classes, to meet the people on my floor and to get to know professors. This is awesome.”

Lane said he had many of the same emotions.

“Having students on campus is why we are here. We want to be here and be able to serve our students from orientation to graduation. That makes it all worthwhile,” he said, stopping the golf cart to visit with another group of new students and their parents – and to show off his new socks. “I love this time of year.”

via The Southern

January 6, 2022 at 07:18PM

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