OBERLIN — A total of 842 new Oberlin College students arrived on campus Monday to settle into their new homes for the fall semester.
The first-year students came from diverse backgrounds and cultures, including 44 states and 35 countries, according to demographic information from the 2018 applicant pool. The students walked the campus, strolled through Tappan Square and meandered through downtown Oberlin area to see their new city and hopefully make some new friends.
Two girls moving in at the same time laughed and listed things they liked to one another as they became fast friends learning they had the same name. Freshmen Thandiwe Seagraves, of Santa Fe, N.M., and Thandiwe Augustin-Glave, of Cleveland, met while discussing fruit on campus on North Professor Street.
“We’re already soul mates,” Seagraves said.
“It’s not like I know anyone else here.” Augustin-Glave added.
The two met when Augustin-Glave got some fruit from the table in front of the residential hall and overheard Seagraves’s mother talk about which melon is better, cantaloupe or watermelon.
From there, they sat near each other and introduced themselves, finding they had the same first names. They also learned they’re both named after the same celebrity (Thandie Newton), have the same astrology sign (Leo) and the same undecided majors.
The new students are only the tip of the iceberg with thousands expected to flood in by the time the semester officially begins Sept. 4. Oberlin Business Partnership Executive Director Janet Haar said the influx of students creates a drastic change in the city’s economy.
“When a city grows from about 5,000 to 8,000, there is a great economic impact,” she said. “The restaurants are fuller and most for the businesses are busier and try to figure out how they can market themselves toward students.”
This influx also is what the city and college want to capitalize on together, according to college President Carmen Twillie Ambar. In a letter to the Oberlin business community, Ambar laid out a plan to embrace the business community and help students do the same.
“We want all our local businesses to prosper,” Ambar wrote. “With that goal in mind, we are interested in exploring opportunities to ensure our mutual success.”
The college will encourage — and in some cases require — student participation in three initiatives. The first was set for Monday and encourages new students to shop local. Students who provide receipts from local businesses will be able to enter a drawing to win gift cards from Oberlin businesses. Harr said she also appreciates the Oberlin College’s efforts to work with businesses to get students to shop local.
The college also designed a new orientation program “Community 101: An Obie’s Guide to Being a Good Neighbor,” to help students think through what it means to be a responsible resident in Oberlin.
This is a required student event that brings together several city partners including Oberlin Chief Prosecutor and Assistant Law Director Farah L. Emeka, Fire Chief Robert Hanmer, City Manager Rob Hilliard, Ben Franklin and Mindfair owner Krista Long and Police Chief Ryan Warfield.
While the college makes zero mention in the letter of its ongoing lawsuit with Gibson’s Bakery, a longstanding downtown Oberlin business, the tone of the letter speaks to ongoing conversations in the business community and attempts to develop a better relationship.
Laney Tuttle, another freshman coming from Albuquerque, N.M., said she looks forward to the week she has to become more acclimated to the college and the surrounding city. Tuttle said she enjoys the new programming and orientation, which she hopes makes things a lot easier starting classes.
“I think this week is more about community building, which is exciting,” she said.