August 23, 2010 — Across the quad between the McCormick Road first-year residence houses, word spread quickly Saturday morning: President Sullivan is here.
Arriving aboard "Wahoo 1" – Pat Lampkin's smart car, renamed for the occasion – newly installed University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan visited with new students, parents and residence staff at the start of move-in weekend, the first of many events that mark the start of a new academic year.
Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer, and Allen Groves, dean of students, guided Sullivan around the McCormick area houses. By the time she arrived in front of Kent, she was greeted by a large group of resident advisers who wanted their pictures taken with her.
"Word is traveling," said Darius Nabors, a student affairs staff member and 2007 alumnus.
From there, the president visited Kellogg House, the University's newest dorm, where the RA's were handing out snow-cones on what was becoming a sultry August morning. Sullivan said U.Va.'s move-in day was not unlike those she had experienced at the University of Michigan, where she served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs before becoming U.Va.'s eighth president Aug. 1.
"The dorms here are quite a bit newer," she said. "At Michigan, the older dorms are called 'Heritage Dorms.'" That means, she said with a grin, that they're supposed to have hot water.
In remarks to parents and students a little later in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium, Sullivan told non-alumni parents that she, too, is a newcomer to the University community and "we'll learn together and grow together over the years ahead."
Addressing parents dropping off their first child at college, she brought out a box of tissues. "These are for you," she said. "I'll pass them around if you need them."
Amid the standard advice for parents – let your child grow and explore, be alert to signs of anxiety or depression, be prepared for changes in your child's thinking and attitudes when she or he comes home, advise your child on how to stay safe – she offered signs that "you might be a helicopter parent" (with apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might be a Redneck" routine):
"You might be a helicopter parent if you say to your child, 'Don't bother getting an alarm clock; I'll call you every morning to wake you up.'
"You might be a helicopter parent if you have the office phone numbers for all of your child's professors, the Dean of Students, and me on speed-dial.
"You might be a helicopter parent if you're shopping for a new vacation home within 500 yards of the Rotunda."
Sullivan also offered anecdotes from her own experience as the parent of a college student: The difficulty of saying goodbye for the first time, the importance of making sure children can get prescriptions filled away from home.
During a Q&A session following her remarks, Sullivan and the parents and students in Old Cabell already seemed comfortable with each other. She replied to a student that her favorite part of U.Va. so far is the Lawn under a full moon. "And it's a full moon right now," she noted.
To another student: No, she had never streaked the Lawn, "nor do I intend to."
To first-year questions like "Should you buy your books before a class starts?" and "Should you approach professors directly about what their courses are like?" she responded as a teacher might, advising students to hold off on books if they think they might drop the class (but don't wait too long) and to definitely ask professors about their courses.
On Sunday evening, Sullivan welcomed first-year students at a convocation on the Lawn and then at a Carr's Hill reception.
The moon was full.