By Kelly Huth

Long before students move into their residence halls, enjoy that first meal at the dining hall, or log in to their computers for the fall semester, Lafayette faculty and staff are busy behind the scenes preparing for the arrival of students. Check out the work that starts months in advance to make sure everyone has what they need to succeed for 2022-’23.

Jason Alley smiles

Jason Alley, director, Learning and Research Technologies

Preparations for the upcoming fall semester start in spring for Jason Alley. That’s when his team assists the Math, Chemistry, and Languages and Literary Studies departments as they coordinate placement exams through Moodle for first-years. “It’s a small slice of their onboarding,” Alley says.

Alley, who has been with Lafayette 15 years, has a multi-pronged role in Information Technology Services (ITS) that involves overseeing teams that manage Google Workspace, Moodle, Kaltura, and more. His team supports those using Moodle, Qualtrics, WordPress, Google Drive, and Zoom. His team also talks with newly hired faculty to discuss their computing research needs.

His team supports high-performance computing that enables researchers to turn around complex queries in a fraction of the time it would take on their personal devices. He points to an example where Andrew Clarke, assistant professor, government and law, was researching campaign finance reporting. He wanted data by counties, but because reporting rules changed in the 2000s, the dataset was massive. “There would be gobs and gobs of data, and it would have been impossible to look through new data,” Alley says. “He was forced to go back to analyze older datasets.”

But thanks to high-performance computing that ITS brought on a few years ago, “you can now do that,” Alley says. “That’s very exciting for me.”

Once the spring semester wraps, Alley’s team plans training sessions for new faculty and updates the Moodle learning management system. His team goes through 100 smart classrooms to make sure the computers and AV equipment are operational, and everything is ready to go. Team members check on equipment in the engineering labs to make sure printers work and labs are operational. They also go through classrooms and labs at the Arts Campus to check media equipment, digital SLR cameras, light kits, and tripods—fixing/replacing pieces as needed. 

“I’m always excited about the energy on campus in the fall—the groundswell of excitement as campus becomes abuzz,” he says. “It’s inspiring to see students meeting and learning. And I want the faculty, staff, and students to know that we are here for them.”

Vanessa Pearson smiles

Vanessa Pearson, director, Student Involvement

By April, Vanessa Pearson and her team are already thinking about Orientation for the fall semester. 

“We start planning, figuring out logistics, meeting with campus partners, and planning how to provide the best experience for incoming students,” Pearson says. 

In 2022, Pearson is excited to launch a new program for incoming students called Lafayette Extended Orientation (LEO). The full-year peer-mentoring program pairs incoming first-years with 67 upperclassmen who will not only lead them through Orientation, but also check in with them throughout the year.

Outside of Orientation, Pearson’s team works with 150 student organizations on campus throughout the year. Student Involvement plans events and student-focused traditions such as 1,000 Nights, 100 Nights, Fall Fest, Lafchella, and Rivalry Week events.

“During the academic year, we’re constantly programming, so summer is a chance to shift gears and work on strategic plans and larger projects.”

Pearson says her team aims to have an event for each class year every semester. They’re also adding new components to programs this year. “We’re trying to make sure our programming matches what students want.”

In years past, there have been NYC boat cruises, formal dances, trips to Lehigh Valley Zoo, IronPigs, and Dorney Park. This year, her office and Lafayette Activities Forum (LAF) are excited to offer indoor roller-skating, new aspects to Rivalry Week, and award-winning actress and “social action hero” Kathy Najimy. 

“Our office tries really hard to provide a fun and interactive experience, and special engagement opportunities for our students. We try to bring that fun element to balance the academic rigor.”

Pearson joined Lafayette in December 2019, and only had a few months on campus before the pandemic hit. 

For me, I’ve had a bit of a strange start with the pandemic, so I’m really looking forward to meeting more members of the Lafayette community, enhancing student engagement opportunities, and experiencing all the wonderful Lafayette traditions.”

Billie Weiss smiles

Billie Weiss, tickets and promotions manager; coach of cheer and dance teams

Billie Weiss loves drumming up school spirit. Weiss, who’s been with Lafayette 20-plus years, handles all ticketed events for Athletics, including football and men’s and women’s basketball. The summer finds her gearing up for the season’s biggest promotions and working to renew season ticket holders.

“I love Lafayette, and my favorite part of this job is engaging with the students and getting the excitement of these games out to everyone,” she says. “I want everyone to be excited and to feel like they’re a part of these games.”

Weiss wants to get the word out early that all Lafayette sports are free for students during the regular season. Students can get one free ticket, and faculty and staff can get up to four free tickets. 

Weiss says this summer has been packed, as she’s been focusing on community outreach.

“We’re giving out free tickets to residents and providing swag for local businesses,” she says.

It all leads up to the first game Sept. 3. The theme will be Community/Youth Day and will feature a youth team in the tunnel, as well as a Kids’ Zone where young fans can find Crayola coloring sheets and a clown.

The first game will be a chance for the Lafayette community to hear the new fight song and cheer, “We are LC.” It’s also a chance to spotlight the cheer and dance teams. As coach of both, Weiss shifts gears to plan practices and camp for the two groups in mid-August. The cheer and dance teams have only a few weeks to practice their routines before the season.

Football dates to remember: 

  • Sept. 3: First game and Community/Youth Day (12:30 p.m. Lafayette vs. Sacred Heart)
  • Sept. 17: Family Weekend (3:30 p.m. Lafayette vs. William & Mary)
  • Oct. 8: Pink Out – Breast Cancer Awareness (12:30 p.m. Lafayette vs. Princeton)

Katrina Wall-Cheatem smiles

Katrina Wall-Cheatem, scheduling assistant, Scheduling and Events Planning

Ever wonder how groups find spaces for their events and programs amid all that’s going on throughout campus? Scheduling assistant Katrina Wall-Cheatem is behind the scenes working her magic.

She helps to schedule campus-wide events for Lafayette and non-Lafayette organizations, and individuals, using the Event Management System (EMS). The challenge is finding locations to accommodate every program’s needs while contending with structural upgrades. She’s a liaison between the College’s event staff, Catering Services, and Lafayette’s building and operation managers.

“Over the summer, we actually get to exhale just a bit in our office, since the academic year is always bustling,” Wall-Cheatem says. “During the summer, once Commencement and Reunion are done, we assist various departments in their early fall planning for Orientation, Family Weekend, and Homecoming, to name a few.”

During the summer, Wall-Cheatem reaches out to student organizations and new employees to introduce herself as a point of contact for room reservations and events. “I welcome them to contact me for anything, even if outside of my purview. I’ve been with Lafayette over a decade, and I have a pretty good sense of where to find answers if I don’t have them myself,” she says.

She also follows up with Environmental Health & Safety, Information Technology, Facilities Operations, Dining Services, and various departments across campus to see if there are any space modifications or updates. Wall-Cheatem is hopeful the fall semester will bring lots of new and exciting things for the Lafayette community. 

“We’ve all been pulled in so many directions from the many effects brought on by COVID and the war in Ukraine. … I’m sure I’ll be twice as exuberant when welcoming new faculty, staff, and students—particularly since human contact for so many of us has been limited.”

Karina Fuentes smiles

Karina Fuentes (she/her/ella), associate director, Intercultural Development

For Karina Fuentes, summer is the time for goal-setting and analysis. 

“I’m here to provide awareness and acknowledgment of several cultural groups and identities,” Fuentes says. “One of my goals is to provide meaningful conversations and discussion-based workshops.”

The Office of Intercultural Development raises awareness through events, elevates voices from our underrepresented groups on campus, and provides multicultural competency resources.

“This summer specifically I met with student organizations to learn what they want to see from our office.”

In her third year with Lafayette, Fuentes says this is the first summer that the department feels more comfortable planning events for students to connect through in-person discussions and events. 

“Our challenge is we still have a good amount of students who may want to be in their dorms. We want to raise the visibility of our office, be in new spaces, go to group meetings, and build that connection with students.”

This year, Fuentes wants to bring in more local speakers and find new ways to collaborate with colleagues at the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC). She hopes to provide meaningful and uplifting dialogue with underrepresented groups in the Lafayette community and the Greater Lehigh Valley. 

Erwin Annulysse smiles

Erwin Annulysse, director, Creative Strategy, Communications

Erwin Annulysse wears many hats. In his 15 years with the College, he’s become a bridge between the Communications Division and a number of areas across campus. He fields requests across campus, and works with a team of designers and communications specialists to find methods of sharing messages across mediums.

In his role, he’s a problem-solver. He works with groups to “articulate the problem, determine the goal they’re working toward, and help to find a solution.”

“We are always here to listen and to help others communicate with their audiences—verbally and visually. We’re here to help.”

In the summer he’s working with Admissions to prepare materials for prospective students, building websites for departments, and assisting with communications needs around orientation and the start of the new semester.

Annulysse says the last few weeks of summer can be challenging. That’s when he’s fielding design requests for websites, directional signage, and other communications pieces as the campus gets ready for the fall semester.

“We want to make sure we’re serving everybody while also communicating effectively within our brand.”

Even though it’s hectic, Annulysse enjoys that hustle and bustle as the campus community readies for fall.

“It always brings a smile to my face to see the students back on campus, getting to know their space.”

Asmita Pendse smiles

Asmita Pendse, assistant director, Counseling Center

It’s hard to ask for help, but the Lafayette Counseling Center is trying to normalize that, especially when it comes to mental health.

“Seeking help can be very difficult for some, and it does take a lot of courage,” says Asmita Pendse. “College provides support in many forms. So if you’re going to try something outside your comfort zone, college might be a good time to do so.”

Pendse encourages everyone to look through the Counseling Center’s website to see the services available. They offer individual counseling, group sessions, workshops, and outreach events. Services are well utilized at the Counseling Center—approximately 40% of Lafayette students seek counseling during their college experience.

Counseling is free, and insurance is not needed. Same-day consultations are available to meet the needs of students who have pressing or time-sensitive concerns. When students reach out, Pendse says it doesn’t have to be a commitment to ongoing therapy. It can be a same-day appointment just to talk with someone. The Counseling Center’s regular operating hours are 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and there’s always after-hours support as well (610-330-5005).

“We know Lafayette students are conscientious and achievement-oriented, and this is a way to take charge of your own mental health, your life.

“Counseling is not the only space—sometimes you’ll find support in a faculty member, a peer, or an outside resource. There are many layers of support on campus.”

Pendse has been with Lafayette for four years. She says that while summer is a quieter time, and a chance to prepare for fall, they’re also still seeing students and training student leaders on campus to be there for one another.

“Mental health isn’t something you do just for yourself—of course, you should—but it’s also for the community. A lot of our programs focus on creating a sense of belonging and caring for each other.”

This fall, all first-year students will complete Kognito training, which builds mental health awareness, knowledge, and skills for suicide prevention. It also helps to build conversation skills when someone is in distress.

Categorized in: Academic News, Faculty and Staff, Featured News, News and Features, Social Hub