Amy Figueroa, Cyril Akpali and Austin Mick don’t know each other. Chances are, they will soon though. They were among the almost 300 students who moved in to residence halls at the College of Staten Island this weekend, an annual event that began six years ago when the halls opened and today represents one of the institution’s greatest successes.
Dolphin Cove buildings north and south, the halls’ formal names, are just a few yards apart and are the foundation of a campus community. They consist of two- and four-bedroom apartments, each including a kitchen; study lounges and game rooms make up the common areas. The apartments are outfitted with Wi-Fi and cable TV, and they’re just a few steps from the campus rec center and cafeteria.
“Mom wanted me to bring my teddy bear but I said, ‘Mom, I’m in college now.’” Figueroa said as she, her mom, two aunts, a brother and a cousin unloaded a bin that two members of the College’s women’s soccer team had pushed to the building.
“Mom wanted me to bring my teddy bear but I said, ‘Mom, I’m in college now.’”
“We’re just here to show a friendly face and welcome the new students,” said Lauren Smith, who plays center midfield.
Figueroa and Akpali are native New Yorkers, Mick hails from Cleveland. They could be called lucky: The halls’ 133 apartments (440 beds, not including those for eight resident assistants and two on-site staff) are 99 percent full – there’s a waiting list and for good reason. For Akpali, a three-hour commute is eliminated and Mick could not possibly have commuted to begin with.
“It definitely makes a big difference,” Mick said, who, as a combo guard for the men’s basketball team, moved in earlier this summer. “It’s the convenience factor. You have easy access to public transportation, there are laundry services and you get the dorm life – campus life.”
Student move-in day actually started in May when students moved out for summer break, explained McKala Accetura, general manager of CSI Student Housing. It comes to a crescendo on Student move-in day. More than 60 volunteers, including College President William Fritz, faculty, staff, and students, are joined by athletes to help make everything go smoothly.
It’s also a moment of peak emotion.
“I’m going to miss her dearly,” said Courtney Beck, whose daughter Jakya will study physical therapy. “I’ll cry when I leave her. I’ll have my nervous breakdown when I get home.”
Experience probably kept some tears at bay Saturday: Beck had seen her son leave for college two years ago and he and her husband were at her side for Jakya’s departure.
“It’s where she wants to be,” she said. “It’s a great step in her life. I want her to have a great experience.”
And the efforts of so many on move-in day were giving her confidence all would be well, she said: All of the Housing team’s prep – extra hours spent landscaping done months earlier, tying up balloons, preparing the schedule for arrivals (the first year everyone arrived at once) – and all of the volunteers’ efforts, particularly a sumptuous waffle breakfast prepared with College President William Fritz at the waffle irons.
“I feel like she’s in good hands,” Beck said. “Everything is going smoothly.”
That feeling of confidence is important, said Stella Porto, the head coach of the women’s softball team. The men’s basketball, women’s soccer, cross country and baseball teams also showed up to lend a hand.
“The residence halls have changed our life,” Porto said. “We were only able to recruit from Brooklyn because this was a commuter campus.”
“The residence halls have changed our life.” Stella Porto, Head Coach, Softball
The arrival of a stand-out softball player from California illustrates the point, she said, and will help the team continue its winning ways: it has won 11 titles in 17 years and could notch its 400th win this season.
“The halls are beautiful and safe,” Porto said. “Parents have to trust that their kids are in good hands.”
A big part of that confidence comes through residence life programs. Dejon Virgo, a first-year resident assistant, was on hand to welcome Figueroa, for example.
“I expect to see smiles and happiness,” Virgo said with a big grin. “We have a whole week of welcoming activities – Uno, kickball, karaoke, roommate trivia.”
Senior RA Aliyah Latif said the RAs were ready for the new students. RA support is available around the clock.
“Even though mom and dad are not here, students still have resources,” she said confidently. “We can assist them any time of the day.”
“Even though mom and dad are not here, students still have resources.” Senior Resident Assistant Aliyah Latif
RAs generally get tagged as the residence hall cops, but in reality they do much more than enforce the rules. “Conflict resolution” is an all-encompassing term that sums up the work, which can include everything from organizing an ice cream social to helping a student with a break-up to getting help when grades go south.
“My advice to new students is give your roommate a chance,” Latif said. “That could be your new best friend. We have roommates who are like, ‘I’m not sure if I’ll get along with the person,’ and then they’re always together.”
All of that makes for a successful college experience, said College President William Fritz.
“We’ve come a long way since the opening of the halls in 2013,” he said. “The first year, all the students showed up at once, it was chaos.
“And we weren’t sure they were going to open – I was down there at 11 o’clock the night before with fire officials. We got the Certificate of Occupancy about midnight.”
Every year, new lessons are learned, staff work to make improvements and Dolphin Cove has proven its value, he said.
“It’s a resounding success – each year we turn people away,” Fritz said. “People are recognizing that the College has a lot to offer. It’s why we’re now being hailed as a destination campus.”