In-person gatherings return, pairing incoming students and parents with current students, alumni and leaders for information swapping

Back in 2019, as he readied for his Norwich University freshman year, Eddie Diaz attended the NU Club of Central Massachusetts’ student sendoff in Worcester, Massachusetts. He approached the check-in table trailed by an entourage.

Norwich University Associate Vice President of Alumni and Family Relations Diane Scolaro remembers Diaz, a now-rising junior and Corps of Cadets member who’s studying political science and military and strategic leadership, asking her who should start filling out name tags.

She asked how many people were in his party. Thirty-two, it turned out — grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

“We say when students come to Norwich, the whole family comes to Norwich.” Diane Scolaro, associate vice president of Alumni and Family Relations

“We say when students come to Norwich, the whole family comes to Norwich,” Scolaro said. “What was so amazing is that he was the first generation to be attending college. And they all wanted to be there.”

Next month, Norwich will resume its summer student sendoffs, an annual tradition. With COVID-19 vaccinations increasing and pandemic restrictions easing, 40 events, led by Norwich alumni clubs and the university’s Alumni and Family Office, will run in person, as backyard barbecues, clambakes and other fetes.

The sendoff schedule also includes some virtual meetings for Norwich community members whose local areas aren’t hosting an in-person gathering or who would rather not attend in person. As ever, all sendoffs will connect incoming first-year students, transfers, returning and graduate students and parents and families with current students, alumni, parents and university staff. About three current students will participate in each in-person meeting, or about 120 total, Scolaro said.

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Students current and incoming met with Norwich University families, alumni and staff at this NU Club of Nashville, Tennessee, sendoff in 2019. Peter Nieman ’94 hosted it. (Photo courtesy Alumni and Family Office/Norwich University.)

Dr. Mark Anarumo, whom the coronavirus pandemic pushed (with everyone else) to the virtual setting in 2020, will participate in person for the first time in his year-plus presidency. He’ll attend about a half-dozen sendoffs.

This year’s schedule does not include a sendoff for international students, but Scolaro said one will likely be added next summer, in keeping with Anarumo’s goal, stated at Friday’s alumni town hall, to further internationalize the campus. Scolaro added that 2020’s virtual sendoff for international students from African nation-states including Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Gambia, was well attended and enthusiastically received.

Answers and affability

Scolaro said the events answer questions and radiate congeniality. Alumni and current students both get to explain their Norwich experience and knowledge-hungry incoming students, and their families, better learn what to expect on arrival day and beyond. Parent-to-parent connections, Scolaro said, enable in-semester advice sharing, intrasemester ride sharing and excitement sharing.

“We don’t always appreciate the significance of parents having the chance to get to know about Norwich, because we all know the Norwich experience isn’t easy.” Scolaro said.

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Eddie Diaz ’23, back row, center with beard and Norwich shirt, stands among students, alumni and Norwich University officials at an NU Club of Central Massachusetts sendoff in 2019. (Photo courtesy Alumni and Family Office/Norwich University)

Alumni and Family Relations Director Eddie Habeck said the pandemic has made in-person gatherings more valuable, importantly easing anxiety.

“(New students) could be very nervous about coming (to Norwich),” Habeck said, “but hearing support and reassurance from the current students and sometimes the alumni, I think it will make them feel better.”

After the pandemic’s heightened anxiety, Habeck said the in-person sendoffs may especially appease parents, showing them that Norwich’s community cares and the students they’re sending will be safe.

“As information and things are constantly changing …  just hearing the reassurance, ‘They’re in good hands, things are going to work out’ (matters).”

Recalling Diaz’s crew, Scolaro said, “I’m going to bet that if Eddie Diaz ever had a doubt that Norwich wasn’t going to work out for him, there were 30 people standing there to tell him he was wrong.”


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