Move-in at UMass: Largest class ever arrives

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  • University of Massachusetts first-year roommates Aria Flematti, left, of Orange and Bridget Tracy of Stoneham unpack in their Melville Hall dorm room on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Victoria Ziniti of Weymouth talks about the move-in to her room in Kennedy Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Marisol Evans-Garcia of Westford talks about the move-in to her room in Melville Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Julia Gharaibeh from Brookfield, Connecticut, talks about choosing to come to UMass as she waits for her belongings to arrive by elevator at Kennedy Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisol Garcia of Westford, mother of University of Massachusetts first-year Marisol Evans-Garcia, talks about helping her daughter move away from home and into Melville Hall dorm room on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisol Garcia, right, of Westford and her daughter Jamie Evans-Garcia, left, a sophomore at Westford Academy, help Jamie's sister, University of Massachusetts first-year Marisol Evans-Garcia, settle into her new room in Melville Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year roommates Jasmin Zheng, right, and Victoria Ziniti, third from left, had help from their families on their move into their Kennedy Hall dorm room on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. From left are Victoria's parents, Kristina and Joe Ziniti, and Jasmin’s mother, Ying, and her brother, Alex. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Jasmin Zheng of Newton talks about her move-in at Kennedy Hall in the Southwest Residential Area on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Jasmin Zheng and her mother, Ying Zheng, of Newton talk about choosing UMass and the move-in to her room at Kennedy Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Aria Flematti, right, gets help from her parents, Randy and Shannon Flematti, during her move-in at Melville Hall on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-years Henrique Souza, left, of Peabody, and Fernando Pedro of Malden, carry a dorm refrigerator from Lot 22 on University Drive to their Pierpoint Hall dorm room on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts first-year Nicole Sparages, left, of Franklin, gets an assist from Minute Mover volunteers Dametreuss Francois, right, a UMass senior, and sophomore Brendan Franko (obscured) for her move in to Melville Hall in the Southwest Residential Area of the campus on Friday morning, Aug. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/30/2019 5:06:02 PM

AMHERST — Cars overflowing with posters and dorm decorations. Red-shirted student helpers pushing large orange moving bins and upperclassmen greeting freshmen with wide smiles. Parents hugging their kids goodbye.

On Friday, move-in day, the University of Massachusetts welcomed the incoming class of 2023, a group of students whose cohort is the largest the university has ever seen, with 790 more scholars than last year for a total of about 5,800.

Two of those students are Aria Flematti, 18, of Orange and Bridget Tracy, 18, of Stoneham. Their second-floor room in Southwest Residential Area’s Melville Hall overlooks a quad in front of the building. Unpacking bags, they said they were nervous but excited to start the next four-year chapter in their lives. 

“I really like the size of the school,” Tracy said, “I like the tuition price, obviously, and the food was also really attractive.”

Growing up near Amherst, Flematti had taken many trips to the town and said she was looking forward to spending some time living there.

As of now, Flematti has decided to study early childhood education while Tracy has set her sights on a degree in communication disorders. As they both live on the same floor, the students are involved in a floor-wide Residential Academic Program (RAP) called Impact, where students living together also take classes devoted to certain topics. This particular RAP is devoted to learning about social justice theory and its intersection with community engagement.

Down the hall, Jamie Evans-Garcia helped her older sister, incoming freshman Marisol Evans-Garcia, 18, of Westford, lay sheets on her twin-sized bed with their mother, Marisol Garcia. As they worked, the jangly guitars of indie-pop band Beach Bunny played from an iPhone perched on top of an empty desk.

“I am feeling incredibly nervous,” Marisol Evans-Garcia said. “I am excited, but I am a touch overwhelmed. It’s a crazy process, just the move-in. But everyone is handling it so well, so it’s as smooth as possible, so that’s helpful.”

On one of the middle floors of the 22-story John F. Kennedy Tower in the Southwest Residential Area were Jasmin Zheng, 18, of Newton and Victoria Ziniti, also 18, of Weymouth, unpacking boxes with their families and setting up their rooms. 

“I packed all of my clothes yesterday, but everything else was over the summer. I took my time,” Ziniti said as she unfurled a rolled-up rug. 

Zheng said she was interested in coming to UMass because of its “perfect” distance away from home, her love of the campus and the fact that some of her friends from high school are also attending. 

Although their room is usually meant for two, Zheng and Ziniti were waiting on their third roommate. The trio is housed in what the school is calling an “economy triple,” one of a few added and discounted options due to the larger-than-expected incoming class. 

UMass went through a similar space crunch last year due to a large class, and this year the university converted lounges to four-person rooms and turned a former multiyear residence hall in Sylvan into first-year housing. 

UMass spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said 100 lounges were converted into quad rooms, along with 350 larger doubles that were converted into triples like Zheng and Ziniti’s.

“We had anticipated that we would have more cancellations in the summer,” Dettloff said. 

Even though this is the second year in a row UMass has had to find alternative housing solutions for students, Dettloff said it was too early to call this growth a trend. She said studies have shown a projected decrease in high school graduates in the Northeast over the next few years, which may ease enrollment. One study from the National Center for Education Statistics found this to be true; however, it also projected that total enrollment in colleges is expected to increase nationwide by 13 percent from 2015 to 2026.

“The university over the last several years has always planned on some modest growth​​​​​​,” she said, noting that the school has done increasingly well in national rankings.

For Zheng and Ziniti, they’re not worried about sharing a room. They recently met up in Boston and are finding shared interests.

“We’re all realizing how similar we are,” Ziniti said, “so I think it’ll be good.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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