Saint Joseph's University Magazine, Summer 2017

Welcome to Hawk Hill

How SJU’s most spirited ambassadors welcome prospective students to campus

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Hawk Host Brendan Gleason ’17

By Bill Avington ’94 (B.A.)

One Sunday in late April this year, visiting families streamed onto Hawk Hill to be greeted by the wide smiles and outstretched arms of Saint Joseph’s University’s most dedicated and enthusiastic student ambassadors — the Hawk Hosts.

It was SJU’s Spring View, an open house for hundreds of high school juniors and sophomores (with a smattering of accepted seniors and transfer students still mulling over their decision), and their families. Whether it’s a first college visit or the end of a long family trek through different schools, they are treated to campus life through the lens of the Hawk Hosts — SJU sophomores, juniors and seniors from across the country and beyond, representing the majority of Saint Joseph’s academic programs and many clubs, teams and other activities.

Clad in black SJU golf shirts, these young men and women welcome each group of visitors as if they’re family. After all, that’s the Saint Joseph’s way. Billy Ripley ’17 (left), explains to prospective families that students come for the education but leave with much more.

He remembers his own tour of campus on a beautiful spring day as a prospective freshman: “Everyone looked so happy.”

Though he visited 14 different schools and applied to nine, he says, “SJU was the only school I felt that I could confidently call ‘home’ for these four years.”

Spring View is the culmination of a year full of admissions events for Hawk Hosts — admitted students day, open houses, group and individual tours, and red envelope surprise deliveries.

They are ready and well-prepared to greet Saint Joseph’s future families.

“No matter what your major is, you will do research.”  Isabella Rivera ’18

One Sunday in late April this year, visiting families streamed onto Hawk Hill to be greeted by the wide smiles and outstretched arms of Saint Joseph’s University’s most dedicated and enthusiastic student ambassadors — the Hawk Hosts.

It was SJU’s Spring View, an open house for hundreds of high school juniors and sophomores (with a smattering of accepted seniors and transfer students still mulling over their decision), and their families. Whether it’s a first college visit or the end of a long family trek through different schools, they are treated to campus life through the lens of the Hawk Hosts — SJU sophomores, juniors and seniors from across the country and beyond, representing the majority of Saint Joseph’s academic programs and many clubs, teams and other activities.

Clad in black SJU golf shirts, these young men and women welcome each group of visitors as if they’re family. After all, that’s the Saint Joseph’s way. Billy Ripley ’17 (left), explains to prospective families that students come for the education but leave with much more.

He remembers his own tour of campus on a beautiful spring day as a prospective freshman: “Everyone looked so happy.”

Though he visited 14 different schools and applied to nine, he says, “SJU was the only school I felt that I could confidently call ‘home’ for these four years.”

Spring View is the culmination of a year full of admissions events for Hawk Hosts — admitted students day, open houses, group and individual tours, and red envelope surprise deliveries.

They are ready and well-prepared to greet Saint Joseph’s future families.

After a welcome session in the Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena, home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, Puerto Rico native Isabella Rivera ’18 expertly leads a large tour into Mandeville Hall, the center of the Haub School of Business.

“Let me show you my favorite room on campus,” says the pharmaceutical & healthcare marketing major, ushering the group up a flight of stairs to the Wall Street Trading Room.

She touts the success of the Hawk Fund, managed by a group of undergraduates who invest in the stock market in real-time. Its earnings are poured back into the fund, which has posted a strong return since its inception.

Rivera relays SJU’s emphasis on experiential learning to the group, informing them about the co-op program and internship opportunities as well as her own presentations at two corporate-sponsored competitions, one with Johnson & Johnson and the other with Walgreens.

“No matter what your major is, you will do research,” she says.

“That’s one of the great things about St. Joe’s. You form relationships with your professors. They want you to succeed.” Daniel Tan ’19

Hawk Host Lauren Opdyke ’19, an interdisciplinary health services major from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, runs through a litany of “Hawk” terms with her tour group: The Hawk student newspaper, Hawk Hill, Hawk Wraps, Hawk Sauce, Hawk Mates. 

“We love the Hawk here,” she says of the most famous mascot in college basketball, known for flapping his — or her (this year’s Hawk is senior Mikaela Bakey) — wings an average of 3,500 times during every game.

She leads the group into the John R. Post ’60 Academic Center, joking that every college tour guide talks about how students want to use the library.

She stops and chuckles, “But, that’s actually true here.”

Standing in the academic center’s glass-enclosed atrium connecting the original Drexel Library, which features the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Special Collections gallery and the Campbell Collection along with traditional study spaces, to the state-of-the-art John and Maryanne Hennings Post Learning Commons. The latter offers open areas to plug in electronics, work in groups, and grab snacks or load up on caffeine at the café as well as cozy nooks to study alone or private rooms to edit audio and video projects. With all of these choices, Opdyke says she makes a decision every time she enters the building: “Do I have work to do, or Do I have WORK to do?!”

After exiting the library, the tour approaches the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial, and Opdyke points out “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” the sculpture that Pope Francis, the first pontiff from the Society of Jesus, blessed while in Philadelphia in 2015.

The significance of SJU’s Jesuit heritage was accentuated by Daniel Joyce, S.J. ’88 (B.A.), executive director of mission programs, during Spring View’s opening session in Hagan Arena.

“As a Jesuit school, our investment is in you,” he told the room full of prospective students and parents. “We believe that education is a ‘head and heart’ project that prepares each student to make the deepest and best impact on the world.”

Maureen Mathis, assistant provost of undergraduate enrollment, summed it up this way: “At a Jesuit school — at Saint Joseph’s — ‘good enough’ never is.”

Hawk Hosts Alli DelGrippo ’17, Sam Giacino ’17, Isabella Rivera ’18 and Daniel Tan ’19, Student Life panel

Every tour stops at Barbelin Hall, home to Public Safety, the College of Arts and Sciences dean’s office, Information Technology, classrooms and Hawk Central — a one-stop location for the registrar, bursar and financial aid. With its Collegiate Gothic architecture and grand bell tower, SJU’s landmark building was once the only building on campus.

There is a reason why, as Opdyke says on her tour, “If you’ve ever gotten anything in the mail from us, you’ve seen Barbelin.” One parent notes, “The Jesuits sure know how to build colleges.”

Enya Maher ’18, a Hawk Host whose double major combines management with leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability, tells her tour group how she discovered her passion for Hawk Hill.

“I put myself out there and realized how wonderful SJU is,” she says. “At St. Joe’s, I have found more families than I can count.”

The San Francisco, California, native is part of the Haub School Dean’s Leadership Program and a two-time Summer Scholar, conducting research under the tutelage of a faculty mentor. She also serves as the women’s rugby club president.

“We have a saying here that goes, ‘Fall in love, stay in love and that will decide everything,’” she says of the phrase from a prayer attributed to Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1907-1991), the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus. “Well, I love St. Joe’s more and more every day.”

Daniel Tan ’19, whom SJU recruited from Australia to play tennis, agrees.

Standing with his tour group in the quadrangle of Barbelin Hall, Tan tells them he wanted a campus “where I would not get lost in a crowd.” He remembers arriving on Hawk Hill alone as a freshman, but he says that soon the inclusive feeling at Saint Joseph’s enveloped him, and he quickly made friends.

“They became my family,” he says.

Saint Joseph’s size was important to him for more than social reasons; it is also helping Tan fulfill his career goals. A finance major, he is working with a faculty mentor to develop an independent study that will help to prepare him for the actuary exam.

“That’s one of the great things about St. Joe’s,” Tan says. “You form relationships with your professors. They want you to succeed.”

Hawk Host Daniel Tan ’19, Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial

Across campus at the “tour tent” near Sweeney Field, Hawk Host Brendan Gleason ’17, a biology major, is a popular man. “People find out that I am pre-med and have lots of questions,” says the Rochester, New York, native, still smiling after four hours.

From his first days on campus, Gleason, a Summer Scholar and senior research fellow in the SJU Institute of Clinical Bioethics, worked closely with SJU’s Health Professions Advisor to help ready himself for medical school. This fall, he will attend Thomas Jefferson University through a joint degree partnership program with SJU.

When professors heard about his interests, they sought him out for lab work, he says, pointing to the Science Center, where he conducted much of his research.

“I don’t think that would happen at a large school,” says Gleason, noting that SJU’s undergraduate student body numbers 4,850. In 2016, Gleason, three other students, a professor and a hospital resident co-authored a paper on pediatric brain cancer tissue donation that was published in the Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology.

Later, in a Mandeville Hall classroom, Gleason joins several Hawk Hosts sitting on room-wide desks, facing prospective students and families who gather for one of many informal conversations throughout the day about student life. Together, the SJU students represent a wide swathe of interests, among them: the Student Programming Board, club and intramural sports, Greek life, student government, theater, acapella groups Hawkapella and City Belles, internships and co-ops, service, Campus Ministry and varsity athletics.

“No matter what a prospective student is interested in, I can look around and find a Hawk Host who shares that interest,” Gleason says. “That’s special.”

One of those Hawk Hosts is Sam Giacino ’17, a sports marketing major from Mercerville, New Jersey, who begins the discussion by emphasizing SJU students’ devotion to service. He is an Appalachian Experience Immersion Trip (APEX) leader and helped to organize the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program (PSIP) for freshmen.

“For APEX, we have 500 available spots,” Giacino says of the annual spring break service trip. “They were filled in 26 minutes this year.”

Megan Burns ’17, another APEX volunteer, told the group about her weekly service through Campus Ministry and how the desire to serve others extended into her academic life as a psychology major with a minor in autism studies. Through the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, located in Connelly Hall on SJU’s Maguire Campus, the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, native supported the center’s activities and gained firsthand experience working one-on-one with individuals on the autism spectrum as a SCHOLAR (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support).

“Not only did I learn an extensive amount about the field, but the learners with whom I worked truly changed my life,” Burns says. “It also set me up incredibly well for my post-grad life. I was offered a job at ABA2Day Behavior Services, which does the same type of work that Kinney does. They were astounded at the experience I received at Kinney.”

She began a full-time position there this summer.

Hawk Host Billy Ripley ’17

Hawk Host Tess Hill ’18

Fellow panelist Alli DelGrippo ’17, also a part of APEX and PSIP, answers a parent’s question about SJU’s location on the western edge of Philadelphia.

“We are so close, just a train ride away,” the Point Pleasant, New Jersey, native says. “Whether we go into the city for Restaurant Week or to a coffee shop for a change of scenery during exams, we’re there all the time.”

A leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability major with a minor in entertainment marketing, DelGrippo enjoyed the experience of joining commuters heading into Center City while doing an internship at LevLane Advertising in Philadelphia.

Just six miles of track separates the campus from Center City. She explains that students use the Overbrook Station near campus for easy access to internship opportunities, lectures and, of course, the nation’s most historic spots, as well as the city’s nightlife, sporting events and concerts.

Rivera’s tour ends outside of Mandeville Hall, exactly where it began. Parents and prospective students swamp her with specific, individual questions. Slowly they disperse to investigate other aspects of life at SJU. She flashes a smile, suggests they try a Hawk Wrap for lunch in the Campion Student Center cafeteria and hustles into one of the Student Life panel discussions. After all, there are always more families to see and future Hawks to meet.

A former writer in the SJU Office of External Relations, now University Communications, Avington is director of communications for St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia.

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Hawk Host Allison Montgomery ’18, John R. Post ’60 Academic Center

The Hosts with the Most

Hawk Hosts are some of Saint Joseph’s most ambitious and spirited young people, representing the student experience as tour guides and campus representatives. To become a Hawk Host, students must complete a competitive written application, be invited to participate in a group interview and, in the final stage, describe a space on campus in front of peers and admissions staff members during a practice tour. Of the nearly 240 students who applied to become Hawk Hosts this year, 52 were hired.

The most important quality of Hawk Hosts, according to Maureen Mathis, assistant provost of undergraduate enrollment, is an ability to enthusiastically share their own authentic stories of Saint Joseph’s with prospective students, parents and high school counselors who are visiting campus.

“More often than not, enrolling students will say that it was their Hawk Host who provided them with the information they needed to make the final decision,” says Mathis, whose office in the Maguire Wolfington Welcome Center overlooks the place where weekday campus tours typically end. “It’s not uncommon for me to hear Hawk Hosts receive a round of applause or overwhelming thanks for a job well done.”