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Print Editions Thursday September 28th, 2023

A first time for everything

Packed classes, crowded dining halls mark semester’s beginning

This article was written by Elizabeth Carr, Katherine Long, Sahil Luthra, Joe Rosales, Kat Thornton, Natalie Villacorta and Emma Wohl.

Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience James McIlwain sat in front of a fireplace in the Blue Room yesterday, quietly sipping coffee and nibbling on a breakfast sandwich. Amid the throng of chattering students, he was an island of calm — casual, in a baseball hat and zip-up sweatshirt. He spread his hands, beamed and surveyed the room. "Yup," he said, "The first day of school looks exactly the same as it has for the last 40 years."

First-years clutched campus maps. Hoards of students — sporting T-shirts dripping from the day's rain — stood in line at the Sharpe Refectory for buffalo chicken wings. Classrooms were packed to the brim.

"We need a bigger room. Hopefully, there will be some attrition. I'm sweating up a storm," said Peter Andreas, professor of political science and international studies, after delivering the first lecture for POLS 1020: "Politics of the Illicit Global Economy" in Salomon 001.

Rachel Friedberg, a senior lecturer in economics, said the turnout for ECON 0110: "Principles of Economics" — traditionally one of the University's largest classes  — was the biggest she has ever seen.

Blake Cecil '15, who was waiting outside Salomon 101 for the introductory economics class that began at 9 a.m., had already been awake for hours. Of his roommates, he was picked to shower first that morning — which meant waking up at 5:30 a.m. But the excitement of the first day kept him awake, at least for the time being.

Like Cecil, many first-years kept up high spirits despite the rainy weather. Diego Morales '15, a native Californian, said the gloomy start was tough, but the classes he shopped were encouraging. "My first lecture made me feel like I'm going to have a great semester," he said.

"In high school, I was happy if I learned one thing a week. And then here, I just went to class and learned five things in 50 minutes," said Celia Megdal '15 after shopping ARCH 0678: "Underwater in the Mediterranean: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology."

But first-years also suffered their share of first-day woes. Swiping their Brown IDs upside down and backward — holding up more experienced patrons — they stumbled into the libraries on their first day of classes.

At the Rockefeller Library, one student mixed up "corrals" with "carrels." "He was from the South," the circulation desk staff member joked.

Transfer student Stephen Olsen '13.5 said the first day of classes was "like going to school for the first time."

In one class he attended — COLT 1421Q: "Word and Image: Ekphrasis, the Iconic Narrative and the Graphic Novel" — each student was given an iPad to use for the semester and told to use the devices for anything they want. But Olsen said the professor stood out as the memorable part of the course.

"I think just being around her is going to expand my mind," Olsen said. "I wouldn't cancel the class no matter what subject it was with her."

Buildings and classrooms across campus were updated over the summer vacation. New rooms to house students replaced those at the old Saunders Inn at Brown, and 25 percent of campus received a fresh coat of paint, said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management.



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