CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois welcomed new students back to Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a bit of local flavor.
Families moved boxes and furniture and said teary goodbyes enveloped in the warm embrace of thick, moist air, a hallmark of summer in Illinois’ lower half.
“A bit warmer here,” Dan Domask said offhandedly Saturday as he moved in his son, freshman basketball recruit Marcus Domask — the family made the nearly eight hour trip down from Wisconsin.
Taking a breather in the heat Saturday was Madalyne Freedman, a returning sophomore from Libertyville studying nutrition and dietary science. Talking about why she decided to come back to SIU, Freedman said she just generally thought the school was nice and appreciated being able to walk to so many places from campus.
There was more to it, though. She and her mother, Darlyne Freedman, said the special services the school gave to Madalyne impressed them. An epileptic, Madalyne said she got a lot of support to help her school year go smoothly.
“Shout-out to Disability Services, for sure,” Darlyne said. On top of this, Madalyne came on academic probation but said because of her advisers she finished her freshman year with a 3.0 grade point average.
The city also welcomed students both literally and figuratively. Mayor Mike Henry said the city’s maintenance crews worked hard to make the city itself look good for incoming families and returning students. However, city employees also took shifts helping kids move in. Henry as well as City Manager Gary Williams both enjoyed welcoming students this way.
“There is no better time than move-in to welcome students and their families and thank them for investing in our community. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Williams said in an email.
As of Friday afternoon Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs at SIU, said about 85% of students housing on campus were moved in. She said this year they again made changes to the housing arrangements on campus. Last year the university opted to consolidate all student housing to the Thompson Point development. Stettler said this was great for community building but didn’t give them a lot of wiggle room.
This year, Stettler said both with the size of the incoming class and in an effort to give people more space, rooms at the previously-shuttered towers were opened up and students were also given a luxury by college life standards.
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“We decided we would offer all singles with suite mates,” Stettler said.
While many were excited about the change, Danny Homan, a junior studying mechanical engineering from Bloomington, said he was indifferent — however he was surprised SIU made the move. He said he didn’t mind having a roommate.
Saturday afternoon, as other students buzzed in and out of the dorms moving in, Homan was busy with a hobby he picked up when he came to SIU: fishing.
Homan and suitemate, freshmen Zack Nauman, were getting lines wet at campus lake — both had at least a little success. Nauman said this was one of the reasons he came to SIU. He said it was a choice between Carbondale and Northern Illinois University.
“It’s beautiful,” he said pointing out the easy access to the outdoors, including the lake outside his dorm.
Across town at the Mae Smith tower, Nathanial Smith and Dylan Dehority struggled through an afternoon game of eight ball. An even match, the two have time to hone their skills living at the tower for the next year.
Smith said he and Dehority are from Mount Zion and were late in choosing their residence halls. However he wasn’t disappointed with Mae Smith.
“I wanted to see the towers, honestly,” he said.
After talking with The Southern, Smith started into the third game of pool in his life — Dehority checked google to rack the balls correctly.
“Let’s hope I’m better than now,” he said about the end of his freshman year.