Allegheny hosts inaugural ‘declaration day’

Staff, administrators celebrate students declaring majors and minors

Allegheny College President Hilary Link speaks with students and staff during the ‘declaration day’ event on April 8. “We don’t have a lot of events that bring the entire community together in celebration,” Link said. “Hopefully, declaration day can set a new standard for patting ourselves on the back every now and then.”

The usually quiet study space of the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library was filled with vibrant voices as the college held its inaugural declaration day there on Friday, April 8.
Declaring a major and minor is one of the most important milestones for an Allegheny student, according to Second-Year Class Dean and Director of Transfer Advising Amy Stearns.
“What makes Allegheny unique is its strong focus on liberal arts and the requirement of an interdisciplinary major/minor combination,” Stearns said. “I think it is important for the entire campus community to celebrate those taking the next step in their Allegheny experience.”
According to First-Year Class Dean and Director of Allegheny Bound Orientation Niki Fjeldal, declaration day has two purposes.
“Firstly, we want sophomores to take charge of their education and celebrate with those invested in their education as they declare their major and minor,” Fjeldal said. “Secondly, we want to provide a platform where all students can find guidance from the many different departments that are here to help them.”
Fjeldal noted that she was surprised that such an event was not already part of Allegheny’s institutional calendar when she started in her role in July 2021.
Allegheny College President Hilary Link confirmed that declaration day will be an annual event with its own place on Allegheny’s event calendar.
“I want declaration day to be a celebration of Allegheny’s hardworking community,” Link said. “We don’t have a lot of events that bring the entire community together in celebration. Hopefully, declaration day can set a new standard for patting ourselves on the back every now and then.”
The event was set up in such a way that attendees were able to navigate through the many informational stands in place on the ground floor of the library. The first of these stands was operated by Stearns, Fjeldal and a student navigator, Autumn Stoneking, ’23.
“My job here today was to help students fill in the declaration form presented to them at the welcome desk,” Stoneking said. “It is a very simple process in which students pick their major, minor and their current and future advisors, along with the registrar’s office are informed of their declaration.”
The final three stations at the event were celebratory in nature as students were encouraged to make their own t-shirts stating their major and minor, fill out gator cutouts to paste on the “I declared” board and enjoy refreshments such as a taco stand and drink fountain
Before reaching the end, students were prompted to navigate their way through the various stands at the event which included representatives from career education, library and information technology services, global education, the Office of Institutional Advancement, undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities, different academic departments and other representatives from offices around campus.
Bill Ochieng, ’24, who declared his major in computer science and minor in economics, found the event to be eye-opening.“I never realized how many niche resources Allegheny can offer to its students,” Ochieng said. “For example, I never realized we had research instruction librarians.”
Public Services Librarian Doug Anderson was representing the research instruction librarians at declaration day.
“Students can make appointments with research instruction librarians to develop their research strategies and gain knowledge of available databases,” Anderson said.
Anderson stressed the importance of utilizing the various resources available to students at Allegheny.
“Saying that you don’t need a librarian because you have the internet is like saying you don’t need a math teacher if you have a calculator,” Anderson said.
Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement Phil Foxman, ’90, agreed with Anderson.
“When I was at Allegheny, I don’t think we had as many resources as students have today,” Foxman said. “For example, I’m here to talk to students about something unique to Allegheny known as the Gator2Gator online platform.”
Foxman described the platform as a way for students and alumni to connect and engage in discourse regarding career advice and professional networking.
Gator2Gator was launched in August 2021, according to Foxman.
“The platform was initially launched just to alumni at the end of the summer, so that students would have pre-existing resources available to them when the platform was made open to them at the beginning of fall semester,” Foxman said.
Ochieng, who is a cryptocurrency enthusiast, shared his Gator2Gator experience.
“I managed to make connections with Allegheny alumni who gave me advice on starting my cryptocurrency portfolio,” Ochieng said. “I plan to make more connections and explore different areas of interest through Gator2Gator.”
Fjeldal mentioned that providing Allegheny students with an event to make connections with alumni and community members is part of her and Stearns’ vision for declaration day.
“We definitely plan to make this a bigger and more collaborative event going forward,” Fjeldal said. “Maybe in the future, we can have an outdoor setting with other attractions such as a musical performance.”
Administrative Assistant to Class Deans Allison Mattis was part of those responsible for planning declaration day.
“I took responsibility for ordering the decorations and food,” Mattis said. “I think it’s also important to note that the Allegheny marketing team was responsible for promoting the event.”
Mattis expressed her appreciation for the student turnout for the event.
“I’m so proud of everyone who came out to declare their major and celebrate with us,” Mattis said. “Although I’m thrilled by the overwhelming response, I’m hoping next time students from all classes come out to celebrate.”
Link believes that the student involvement culture on many college campuses across the nation has suffered from COVID-19.
“It must be stressed that a lot of students do not feel as comfortable in compact social events as they did before COVID-19,” Link said. “Allegheny has also suffered from this.”
Link remarked that it is important to provide students with more collaborative community spaces. She commended the entire campus community on their efforts each day to make Allegheny a safer and more inclusive space for everyone, but noted that it is up to the entire community to increase traffic in existing spaces.
“It is true that many of our already existing community spaces are not as active as they perhaps should be,” Link said. “(The administration) needs student help in creating a more cohesive campus culture. We need students to get involved and to come to us with their wants and needs. I urge everyone to bring their proposals.”