KINGSTON, R.I. — Simon Polk had the entire contents of his University of Rhode Island dorm room on a sidewalk in front of his residence hall on Friday.
The freshman from Maine was one of hundreds of students taking part in URI’s fall semester move-in.
Perched atop boxes of Polk’s clothes, supplies, and furniture was his surfboard.
URI’s new president, Marc Parlange, noticed it right away and struck up a conversation with Polk.
“Hi, I’m Marc,” Parlange, who was dressed as if he was about to go for a jog and was going to ask Polk if he wanted to join him, said.
“Do you surf in Maine,” Parlange asked. “Is it cold?”
“It’s not too cold as long as you are in southern Maine,” Polk replied.
The business management major stayed in Narragansett last year, he said. He saw what a popular spot it was for surfers.
“It’s one of the reasons I chose the school,” he said.
Parlange, who is a runner, invited Polk on a run after all – a special welcome 5K that was to be held on Saturday. He extended the invitation to every new student he met while walking along Butterfield Road, where most of the freshman dorms are located. His wife, Mary, accompanied him on the meet and greet.
In his first few weeks as president, Parlange is as much of a newcomer as the first-year students. New first-year students come to URI this year from 24 countries including Korea, China, Indonesia, India, and Canada.
“It’s very important, your first days, because you make friends that will be your friends for the rest of your four years and probably beyond. It’s been really positive,” Parlange said.
Parlange said extending the move-in from two days to four has made the experience a little less congested and hectic. That’s important, given that the university is still observing some COVID-19 rules such as requiring face masks for anyone who is indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
“We’ve also stuck to the rule of no more than two students (housed in) a room. We didn’t want to pack them in,” Parlange said.
But besides that, the dorms will be at full capacity this year for the first time since March 2020, when the pandemic began and students left campus.
“It’s great to see such a strong community with great values,” Parlange said. “This has been a tough year with COVID and I’m glad we’re able to come back.”
In front of Adams Hall, Jean Lake helped move her granddaughter, Lynzie Anderson, into her dorm.
It was a repeat for Hall.
“I’m very excited. Her sister is at Quinnipiac University and we moved her in last week. She’s a twin,” Lake said.
Anderson, from Revere, Massachusetts, said the stress of packing and traveling to Kingston had given way to excitement at meeting her roommate and settling in to a new home.
“I’m definitely excited to move into a dorm,” the business major said. “I feel like I’m bringing everything. A lot of clothes, a lot of things to organize my dorm, a lot of decorations.”
Several freshmen expressed gratitude for being able to live on campus this semester. Most spent their senior year of high school learning remotely.
“It feels kind of crazy, honestly,” Elizabeth Conlon, a marketing major from Westchester, Pennsylvania, said. “With the last couple years of everything being online, it feels cool to actually be here at college, because we weren’t sure it was going to be able to happen.”
Some students who moved in Friday are much closer to home.
Take Emma Murdock, a biology major who lives in North Kingstown and works at Brickley’s.
She just met her two suite-mates, Valerie MacDonald and Kate Hlywa. Both are from out of state.
“It’s refreshing” to be living on campus, Murdock said.
“I was worried it wouldn’t happen,” Hlywa added.
Parlange also got to meet a student who’s been in show business on the small screen.
Madison Thomas, of Mystic, Connecticut, also celebrated her 18th birthday Friday.
“There’s a movie being filmed near my aunt’s house. It’s called ‘Christmas Fix’ and it’s coming out on Lifetime in December,” Thomas said. She wouldn’t divulge what her role is in the upcoming movie,which stars Ryan McPartlin and Jana Kramer. But she’s also had experience with another production that shot in Noank. She’s thinking of joining the actors’ guild.
“I was an extra in it. I got to work with the cast, the production team. They were all super great to work with. It was a great experience.”
Now she’s excited, she said, about her next great experience of living and studying at URI.
Students making up the Class of 2025 come to URI after at least three semesters of high school undertaken in uncertainty due to the pandemic. First-year students were selected from a record-setting 25,107 applications received.
The students will join approximately 500 transfer students, more than 2,000 graduate students, a number of Finish What You Started students, thousands of returning URI students, and hundreds of students who will be concurrently enrolled in high school and at URI, to comprise a student body of approximately 17,000.
Nearly 5,700 students will live in 27 on-campus residences this fall, including 17 Living and Learning Communities. In addition, approximately 650 students will reside in 15 fraternity/sorority houses on campus, and another 75 will live in designated International Engineering Program housing.