Denisha Thiaw (on left), a new SUNY-New Paltz freshman and resident of the Bronx, gets some help moving into Lenape Hall from her cousin Lanar and her mom Doreen. (Lauren Thomas | New Paltz Times)
Residents of New Paltz noted a marked increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic starting last Thursday, and adjusted their psyches to the flood of students returning for the fall semester at SUNY-New Paltz.
The village’s summer is officially at an end, much to the relief of business owners becalmed by an economic dead period. Shopkeepers have now put out messages saying “Welcome!” and “Help Wanted.”
Jessica, a transfer student from Nassau Community College on Long Island, was immediately taken with the town. “It’s cute and quaint,” she said. She was excited to see that there was a record store on Main Street. She hadn’t even seen her dorm room yet.
It was the education program that brought her to New Paltz, she said. She’s one of approximately 800 transfer students entering SUNY-New Paltz this year.
Another is Adrian Abaquin, was just finished up at Rockland Community College. “The town kind of reminds me of Nyack,” he said. While his first choice had been SUNY-Binghamton, he ultimately decided on New Paltz because “It’s small, close to home, the people are nice, and I get homesick.” He didn’t want a school that was “big on Greek life or a real party school,” he said. “I’m 22, ready to study, and maybe party a little on the side.”
Abaquin’s mother, Flo, said she liked the warmth of the New Paltz campus. Coming here to drop off her son was the first visit she’d made to town. “He’s very independent,” she said with pride, noting that her son visited nearly all his college choices on his own. She added that the SUNY-New Paltz campus seemed “very diverse.”
L. David Eaton has been the vice president of enrollment management at SUNY-New Paltz since 1998. According to Eaton, this year’s incoming freshman class is the most diverse class yet in the college’s history. In addition to students from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds from around the country, Eaton said that 600 students from 23 other countries are also embarking on their New Paltz education this year.
Matt English, an incoming freshman from Smithtown, said that the feel of the town was part of the college’s allure. He was impressed by the academic programs, and noted that “you can’t beat the SUNY price.”
English is expecting “a big learning curve” as he adjusts to college life and academic expectations. He won’t be alone in that transition. Some 1100 freshmen will be attending SUNY-New Paltz this year.
Another freshman, Ali, will find the support which comes from familiarity. She’s among a group of “relatively close friends” who decided to attend SUNY-New Paltz. She already got one bit of news when she saw her College Hall dorm room: “It has two windows, which was a very big shock to everyone.” When she’s not studying business, she hopes to take advantage of the opportunity to hike in the Gunks.
Alithe Thompson sat by a large pile of luggage while her daughter and husband ferried things up to the dorm room. She said that her daughter would be studying accounting, and that she found the size of the campus and town to be appealing.
According to college officials, 16,524 applications were received for admission to SUNY-New Paltz this year. For the 27th consecutive year, the New Paltz campus has had more applications than any other comprehensive SUNY school. There are no declared plans to increase the number of students at New Paltz, but college officials have been trying to add housing either on campus or off campus to accommodate the already high demand. A new dorm opened last year.
First-year students tend to have a lost look in their eyes as they navigate the steps to moving in and figuring out where everything is on campus. Staff members like Peter Randazzo, a resident assistant, were on hand to provide directions, as well as answer questions and exude enthusiasm. “The main goal is to keep things moving,” Randazzo said, “but you also want to keep the parents excited.”
Joe Durso’s daughter Nina is someone else who preferred the idea of attending a smaller school. She had been going to college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he said, but she didn’t care for it. They’d taken a look around New Paltz, he said, and his daughter liked the town’s hiking possibilities and its “music atmosphere.” “It’s more her speed,” he said. It’s “not a big city.”
A sophomore named Lani was clear on why she returned for her second year in New Paltz: love. “I love the town,” she said. “I love the theater program, which is great, and everyone here is pretty nice.”