Class of 2026 Moves In, Receives Lively Welcome

More than 1,500 students from 44 states and territories and 38 countries join the Lehigh family this week.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Christa Neu

Videography by

Stephanie Veto

Welcomed with a flurry of applause and cheers from student orientation leaders at the Mountaintop Campus, Odi Dibor kicked off her Lehigh experience with a buzz of nervous excitement. 

“I can’t wait to learn new things and prepare for the rest of my life,” said Dibor, of Hilltown Township, Pennsylvania, as she gathered her orientation materials Thursday morning at Iacocca Hall.

Move-In Day for Lehigh’s 160th class was an exuberant occasion, as the first-year students checked in, received campus maps and other orientation materials, then headed to their assigned dorms on the Asa Packer Campus, hauling up bedding, toiletries, clothing and snacks. Their parents received “Lehigh parent” pins. 

Odi’s father, Lawrence Dibor, enjoyed the welcome at Mountaintop where upbeat music was thumping from speakers, refreshments were served and student volunteers set the mood in welcoming the first-years. 

“Everyone is really excited and I’m intrigued,” he said. “The attitude of the students is wonderful. The kids are pumped, music is playing, I’m very happy we are here. I look forward to her college experience.” 

This year’s incoming undergraduate class includes more than 1,500 students, many of whom arrived on campus earlier this week. They come from 44 states and territories and 38 countries. The group includes 16 valedictorians and salutatorians.

The students will be joined by more than 600 new master’s and doctoral students, including the first graduate students directly admitted to the College of Health.

New students welcomed

Student orientation leaders give members of the Class of 2026 an exuberant welcome.

This year’s Move-In Day looked a little more like August 2019, before the pandemic, said Ozzie Breiner, director of housing services. The previous two years new students were assigned specific time slots to go through a drive-through check-in process. Volunteers verified if students were properly vaccinated and then students and their parents would head to their dorms to unload their cars. 

“This year is going back to the old days where we can help students unload their cars,” Breiner said.

There were no longer timeslots to check in. Also, for the first time in two years, Lehigh’s MOOV (Made of Our Volunteers) representatives were back to help—directing traffic, unloading cars and delivering students’ belongings to their dorm rooms. 

“It’s a longstanding Lehigh tradition that we are very excited to re-introduce to our current students,” Breiner said. 

For the student volunteers, many of whom moved in during the height of the pandemic, this year’s Move-In Day is a new experience with MOOV representatives and a more relaxed check-in, Breiner said. 

“I know for a fact when everything falls into place, it’s a fantastic day and a great way to greet our newest class,” he said. 

Dannah VanPraagh ’23, an orientation leader and MOOV volunteer, remembers Move-In Day in 2020 when orientation was conducted remotely over Zoom and students were either alone in their residence halls or at home.

The Move-In Day welcome is an integral part of the Lehigh experience, and VanPraagh said she’s glad it’s getting back to normal. 

New students move into Lehigh

After checking in, students headed to their assigned dorms on the Asa Packer Campus, hauling up bedding, toiletries, clothing and snacks.

“Our staff makes everyone really excited and I’m so proud of them,” she said. “I think if students showed up to an empty room with no one cheering them on, it would make a potentially scary time even scarier.” 

The experience also shows families that their student is in good hands, VanPraagh said. 

Parents Peter and Mary Sanoulis, of Long Island, both said they felt better about dropping off their son John Sanoulis, a future business major, after the welcome they received. Although John is the fourth child they are sending off to college, though the first to go to Lehigh, the day wasn’t any easier. 

“It’s very emotional, him being our last to go to college,” Mary Sanoulis said, but she felt good about John starting at Lehigh. “It’s the family feeling I get, the community feeling.”

John said he was drawn to the campus because of its beauty and architecture and that he most looked forward to meeting new people. 

At the Centennial II first-year housing complex, Linden Wineland was moving in after what he described as an exhausting drive from Northfield, New Jersey, near the beach. 

“It’s a very prestigious school,” said the future bioengineering and physics major. “I really like the scenery here. It’s very different from the shore.”

Wineland was up until 2 a.m. packing Thursday before his family hit the road to Lehigh at 7:30 a.m. “It was just my excitement and my nerves, but I’m ready,” he said.

Nearby, Mariel Kavanagh, her boyfriend and her mother, Tracey Kavanagh, unloaded the car after driving in from Philadelphia.  Mariel said attending Lehigh Fest, a daylong program in the spring that introduces admitted students to academic and student life at the university, solidified her decision to attend Lehigh. 

“I’m excited and a little nervous. I’ve never lived away from home,” she said. After moving in, Mariel and her family were looking forward to the picnic on the Clayton University Center lawn.

“She is my second child to go to college, but the first to go away, so I’m a little nervous. I’m looking forward to her having all the academic experiences Lehigh is known for,” said Tracey Kavanagh. 

Students enjoy lunch

Arriving students enjoyed lunch on the Clayton University Center lawn.

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 greeted parents and students Thursday and helped them carry  their belongings into their dorms. In a video message this week, Helble welcomed the families of the Class of 2026. 

“I’ve had the chance to meet some of our new students at events this spring and summer and I look forward to meeting many more of you this fall,” Helble said in his video address. “It’s going to be an exciting and important year for Lehigh.” 

Some changes to be implemented this fall in response to feedback from the Lehigh community include: enhanced health benefits for graduate teaching, research assistants and research fellows; a new student exam center in Williams Hall that will provide support for students with a documented need for testing accommodations; improved dining options at the Mountaintop and Packer campuses, including the reopening of the Ciatti Global Cafe in Williams Hall after a two-year hiatus, and improved wait-times for the Mountaintop shuttle. 

In addition, Lehigh’s Title IX office appointed a faculty and staff committee and worked with an external partner to assess, and where needed, improve the timeliness of communications. A report is expected late in the fall semester, Helble said in his address. 

The university’s strategic planning process will also formally launch this fall with a series of town hall meetings to take place later this month. The strategic plan will identify areas critical to Lehigh’s research and educational mission in the years to come.

Video by Stephanie Veto with Alan Sylvestre and Taylor Stakes

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Christa Neu

Videography by

Stephanie Veto

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