On February 20 and 21, 2011, the Robert E. Cook Honors College at IUP hosted a President’s Day Overnighter program for high school seniors who applied and were accepted to the Cook Honors College (CHC) with the early decision application. The students who attended the overnighter have already made the decision to attend the CHC as members of the class of 2015 and used this opportunity to get to know their future classmates.
Katie Stanko, a freshman at the CHC this year and one of the organizers of this overnighter, said, “I think the President's Day Overnighter was very successful. It gave the future class of 2015 a chance to get to know each other, to bond, to form friendships that will last the next four years of their lives. We made the experience fun but very [relaxed] and low key, so the students decided what they wanted to do. I think that's why so many of them liked it.”
Laughter and camaraderie were the overwhelming characteristics of the class of 2015 as they played a “Roommate Speed Dating” game, participated in various icebreakers, and listened to a panel of current CHC students talk about life in the Honors College. Later, a group called the Honors Connection divided the overnighters into three teams and provided each team with props, asking them to come up with quick skits using all of the provided materials. Each group came up with something hilarious, amusing peers as well as getting a taste for what Core presentations will be like in the future.
Laura Wilkins, another CHC freshman who helped out with the overnighter, was impressed by the natural ease with which the incoming freshmen interacted with one another. “Even when left to themselves, they came up with a game to play to help get to know each other. They were really friendly and outgoing and not afraid to talk amongst themselves. They were enthusiastic about getting to know each other as well as the upperclassmen,” she said.
As the night progressed, groups of incoming freshmen could be found mingling amongst their peers and CHC upperclassmen. In one classroom, the tables were pushed aside and a videogame station was hooked up to a flat-screen TV. Students playing “Dance Dance Revolution” were jumping and moving on top of large floor pads in time to the music while, in the back of the room, a loud game of Guesstures was taking place. Bursts of laughter continued to erupt from this crowd as their friends flailed their arms ridiculously, trying to get their teams to guess the correct words.
In the room next door, a group of guitarists had gathered around the baby grand piano, strumming their instruments and singing with each other as other students sat and listened. Over in the Great Hall, tables were moved aside to accommodate all of the sleeping bags and pillows that had been spread out on the floor, ready and waiting for the overnighters when they finally tired of their games and conversations.
The next morning, the overnighters returned to the Core classrooms after having stayed up spending time with each other in them for a large portion of the night. They sat in and listened to the classes, getting a feel for how Core operates and finding intrigue and entertainment in the classroom dialogue. After eating a last meal together at the Hadley Union Building, the program ended and the overnighters went home. Juli Whetstone, one of the incoming freshmen, summed up the 2011 President’s Day Overnighter nicely: “It’s [been] nice to meet everyone before we start this Fall and get to know each other. It’s been a great experience.”