Faculty, Staff, Coaches Share Memories of Their First Day of Classes at Drew University

Alums felt at home despite nerves on their first days, now welcome the excitement of a new year

August 2023 – Those who come to Drew University have a habit of coming back and sticking around.

A number of faculty, staff, and coaches began their time at Drew as students. With another school year about to begin, we asked them what they remember about their first steps on campus, and how the first day of classes still feels special.

Raul Rosales, Professor and Chair of Spanish, Director of First-Year Experience

I was both very excited and very nervous for my first day of classes. Being a first-generation college student, everything was absolutely new to me and I had no idea what to expect, which made me incredibly anxious. Yet, I was also keenly aware of the amazing opportunity I had before me. I remember wanting to take it all in, and I also remember how the Drew faculty made me feel welcome and that I belonged.

Every first day of class I try to remember how I felt several decades ago in my students’ place. It’s an opportunity for me to create a first impression for my students, not only regarding my own classroom, but the Drew community at large. I want to ensure that I “see” every student, and that they each quickly become aware that there’s a home for them at Drew.

Rachel Papa, Admissions Counselor

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Papa with her mom on Move-In Day 2019.

I remember getting lost on my first day of classes while trying to find Seminary Hall for my DSEM [Drew First-Year Seminar], but I eventually found my way! I also remember getting breakfast at commons after DSEM with some of my classmates. We went on to do this after almost every DSEM for the whole semester which was really nice! DSEM is probably my favorite memory when I think about my first day because it allowed me to develop my ability to write in the college setting as well as make some friends right away!

The first day of classes means so much to me now in my current role. All of the work we have done with this incoming class becomes full circle as we get to see them begin their journeys at Drew. I am really excited to touch base with my students as the semester progresses and get to see them flourish as Drewids. I am also really curious to hear about their DSEM experiences!

Kirsten Trambley, Assistant Director of Theological Admissions

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Trambley after her first classes.

On my first day of classes in August of 2017, I picked up a tea at Starbucks in the EC and was filled with anxiety as I walked to Seminary Hall. I had moved to a new place to study a new topic and pursue new ideas, but I struggled with letting go of what life was prior to grad school and understanding what my new chapter of life would be like. Looking back, I am grateful that I took a leap of faith into theological studies because I had an absolutely life-changing experience. Students I met during orientation were in my first class, and the five of us banded together as the first-year students in a class filled with second- and third-year students who were much more at ease. My second class of the day only had first year students, and it was a sigh of relief to be in a space where we were all just as confused and excited to begin a new journey. The juxtaposition of those two classes felt difficult at times, but it was a defining characteristic throughout my Master of Divinity and my Master of Sacred Theology to be both challenged and encouraged. I was terrified of making a mistake like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde on the first day of every semester, but I always showed up to class prepared and was never kicked out!

As the Assistant Director of Theological Admissions, I see the start of the semester as a way to provide an assuring presence that I needed when I began my time at Drew. I am in regular conversations in the weeks leading up to the semester when I talk to incoming students and assure them that everything will be okay and will start well. I encourage them and tell them to use these final months, weeks, and days to relax, watch tv, and read for fun because the next few years will be amazing and filled to the brim with opportunities that will take all of their time in the best way. I just had a phone call with an incoming student who said that I helped her to feel more calm, and I am grateful that I can be supportive to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Ryan Tumulty, Student Accounts Representative

My first day at Drew was back in August of 2018. I remember it vividly. I met up with some friends Henry, Nick, Jake, and Jason. We went to all of the student events held that day and created a tight friendship within a few days. I remember walking into each class, meeting each professor, and looking around at my peers and thinking “this is going to be fun.” I was very nervous but had a feeling of being at home.

I am feeling excited and anxious this year. Excited because I haven’t worked yet with students attending classes full-time, so the hallway action will be fun to spectate. I’m anxious with it being my first year back at Drew, meeting all the new faces and answering all the new questions!

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