President and provost welcome freshmen as classes begin for 2020-21 academic year

Richard W. Schneider went out like a graduate last spring. As the Class of 2020 collected its degrees in May, Schneider entered retirement, exiting after 28 years as Norwich University’s president. This year, Mark C. Anarumo comes in like a freshman, beginning his tenure as Norwich’s president as the Class of 2024 arrives.

In his 10 weeks on the job, Anarumo, Norwich’s 24th president, immersed himself in university activities, including Alumni Office-organized Legacy of Learning seminars and virtual sendoffs. As students arrived in waves, Anarumo welcomed them, frequently peering into cars and ferrying belongings to dorms via golf cart.

“You’re a very special class to me, and always will be, because you’re my very first class of students.” Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo, speaking to the Class of 2024

Last week, because the pandemic made the traditional live-before-a-crowd greetings impossible, Anarumo and Provost Sandra Affenito joined deans Edward Kohn (College of Liberal Arts), Michael McGinnis (College of Science and Mathematics), Col. Matthew Smith (College of National Service), Aron Temkin (College of Professional Schools) and Martha Mathis (dean of students) in delivering video hellos.

Anarumo, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and was a director and permanent professor for the Center for Character and Leadership Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said he was honored to lead tomorrow’s leaders at Norwich.

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Students wore their masks, and their school pride on Thursday as they traversed campus. In video addresses, Provost Sandra Affenito and President Mark C. Anarumo told the Class of 2024 that Norwich’s students help form a tight-knit community that enables intellectual and social success. (Photo by Norwich University Photography.)

“You’re a very special class to me, and always will be, because you’re my very first class of students” he told the Class of 2024. “We will go through together, we’ll be learning together through …  your entire college experience.”

Part of the experience, at least at first, will be addressing the pandemic, he said. Campus will run at reduced capacity to comply with Vermont Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. About 1,800 students will be on campus; about 300 will commute to school and about 300 will study remotely.

Keeping campus healthy, Anarumo said, will require everyone committing to physical distancing, frequent hand washing and vigilant mask wearing. By taking care of themselves first, and staying in their rooms when they feel ill, students can contribute to collective health.

“We must not be complacent, we must not be careless. … there’s a lot at stake here, he said. “One foolish act could take (the semester) away. I’m asking you all to act right.”

Meanwhile, Affenito used words and slides, especially one of Norwich’s vision statement, to illustrate how the university will stoke student success.

“When the road is difficult, or rocky, or the way forward may seem unclear, just know you are joining a strong community,” Affenito said. “This is a community of learners, a community of leaders.

“You and your classmates will continue to fortify our strong foundation. … We’ll make sure you’re ready and we’ll make sure that you will be successful,” she added.

Seizing opportunity

Resources abound, Affenito said — the Academic Achievement Center and Kreitzberg Library for the mind, the Counseling and Wellness Center for the soul, the Career and Internship Center for the future.

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Norwich students descended from the Paine Mountain trails on Sunday. President Mark C. Anarumo and Provost Sandra Affenito encouraged students to capitalize on resources to expand their curiosity this semester. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Affenito said students will have myriad chances to learn (including undergraduate research and civic engagement), to observe (as during the Todd Lecture Series and Military Writers’ Symposium) to stay active (by hiking the Shaw Outdoor Center trails surrounding campus or using the gym, though indoors in limited numbers). She urged students to maximize their experience.

“Stretch your mind,” Affenito said. “Learn something new, learn from other students. Students who are different than you can teach you things and you can teach other students the same.”

Anarumo said upheavals beyond Northfield — unrest over racial justice, a contentious U.S. presidential election and the pandemic — have infused the semester with adversity. But, these elements offer a chance to follow a Norwich guiding value — tolerate all opinions.

Anarumo said he hopes to put faces to names as the semester, and year, progress. He encouraged the students to say hello and chat when they can.

“These virtual connections are one thing, but that’s not the way it should be,” he said, later adding, “the personal attachments that we develop will be the ones that last forever.

“I very much look forward to seeing you all in person.”

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Norwich University Perspectives Project: COVID-19

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