Decked out in shorts, a palm tree-patterned shirt, sneakers and brown socks, Michael McCaffery, director of the Biology Department's Integrated Imaging Center, is addressing a small group of incoming freshmen. McCaffery, who says he "dressed up" for the occasion, is leading a tour of the Integrated Imaging Center, located in the basement of Mudd Hall. During his minilecture, McCaffery trots out terms and phrases such as "genetic perturbations," "acylamide gels" and "isolate the glomerulus."
At one point, he pauses, brings his hands together and asks, "So, is any of this making sense?" He is answered mostly in blinks and tight-lipped stares. The students' looks say it all: The carefree days of sunscreen and hammock naps have officially come to an end.
At Homewood, the class of 2005 has arrived, and last week the university's welcome wagon was out in full force to introduce the 1,005 freshmen enrolled in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering to their new home.
McCaffery's tour was part of an open house put on by the Biology Department, which like all other Arts and Sciences departments, opened its doors for a few hours last Tuesday during freshman orientation week. The open houses were new to the whirlwind orientation schedule, leading up to the first day of classes; other events included an Ice Cream Social, Quad Movies, Playfair and Club Night.
In fairness to the students, McCaffery says he didn't expect them to grasp all that he was saying. Some of the students are still stuck in vacation mode, he says, and many at this embryonic point in their college careers are more concerned about not getting lost on their way to class than about the advantages of electron microscopy.
"I wanted to stimulate their minds some and illustrate just some of the opportunities that are available to them here," McCaffery says. "It's a big leap from high school to college. Hopefully, that came across a little bit."
The big leap for the students started with two move-in days, Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1, during which a small army of student volunteers descended upon the arriving vehicles to help cart the items bound for dormitories. On Saturday, President William R. Brody and his wife, Wendy, riding on tandem scooters and accompanied by the family dog, were on hand to greet students and their families as they arrived.
The fun was kicked off with Saturday Night Live! at Levering Hall, where students danced, performed karaoke and turned green on a moon bounce. Not to be ignored, the parents on Sunday morning received an orientation of their own in Shriver Hall, attended by the Homewood deans and President Brody. For many parents, Sunday was also the day to say goodbye to their sons and daughters. Janice Min from Cleveland, who has never been away from her parents for an extended time, says it was an emotional farewell.
"They cried some before they left," says Min, who had just come out of the Biology open house. "My mom has been calling me all the time, in fact. It was kind of hard to say goodbye, but I'm OK."
To help ease some of the homesickness, the orientation week had many ice-breaking events where students could meet one another and let loose.
For the pseudo-gambler, there was Casino Night, where a three-piece jazz band played while students tested their luck on blackjack tables, roulette wheels and other casino standards. Students played for chips, which could be traded in for prizes.
If food was what they wanted, they had many choices, including the Maryland Food Feast in the freshman quad and an Ice Cream Social at the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith and Community Service Center.
At Sunday afternoon's New Student Convocation, the class of 2005 not only met their deans and some of the university's top administrators but received gifts as well: Hopkins T-shirts with Class of 2005 emblazoned on the backs.
An event that promised something for everyone was Sunday night's Playfair, an orientation standard that features, among other activities, human chains and the dividing up of the freshman class into groups, whether it be by birthday or place of origin.
This year's freshman class, in fact, comes from 44 states and 21 countries. The male-to-female ratio is 60-to-40, and the average combined SAT score for those admitted is 1440.
Not all fun and games, orientation week also included many information sessions. In addition to Arts and Sciences' academic open houses and advising meetings, the School of Engineering hosted a series of student interest panels on topics such as research and internships and "How to Get an A."
John Bader, assistant dean of academic advising, was the leading force in putting together the inaugural academic open house schedule. Bader says his intention was to introduce students to disciplines they perhaps had never heard of.
"When students arrive here, they tend to be very limited in the academic choices that they make, focusing on the popular and famous majors like economy, biology and political science. They just don't know about anthropology and the Earth sciences, for example," Bader says. "There is so much academic diversity here and so many terrific faculty members, it seems like such a shame not to show them off."
Bader went to a dozen of the open houses, which included tours, poster sessions and sometimes buffet spreads, and says he thinks the event was a huge success.
"What I saw was a lot of enthusiasm and faculty really committed to selling their wares," Bader says. "There was also some really great food."
For most of the students interviewed for this article, the highlight of the week was Club Night, held this year at the Have a Nice Day Cafe in downtown Baltimore.
"It was very, very crowded there," says Kat Albright. "That night was a lot of fun."
Justin Klatsky agrees wholeheartedly.
"Club Night was a lot of fun. I stayed the entire time," says Klatsky of the event that lasted from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. "All of the [events I went to] have been pretty good. Everyone is very friendly."
Some made it a point to hit as many events as possible.
"I figured I should do everything that's planned, or at least as much as I can," says James Maimone-Medwick. "I've already met a lot of people."
Looking ahead to the four-year journey that lies in front of them, most students said they were anxious to start this next phase of their life.
"I really enjoyed the summer, but heading toward August I was like, I really want to start school now," says Chung Kim. "I'm not sure if I want to start classes, but I wanted to be here."