University of the Pacific in Stockton once again opened its campus to students after the summer break on Saturday, welcoming nearly 600 nervous but very excited new students who walked onto the campus that would be their home for the next few years.   

Victoria Herrera, a freshman student at UoP, picked up her student ID, dorm keys, swag box and some university merchandise early Saturday morning from the DeRosa University Center on campus. As her hands were full, her mother Lorena Reyes helped her pick out a limited-edition stress toy in the shape of the university’s mascot, a tiger.  

Nearly 1,900 students, new and returning, checked into the campus and moved into their dorms at University of the Pacific over the weekend.  

“I grew up in Stockton my whole life, and I got a full scholarship here [at UoP],” said Herrera, who is a biology major. “I’m excited; it’s a new chapter of my life.”  

The day involved the students going into the check-in area at the DeRosa center to collect their keys, swipe cards and goodies — like Herrera did — followed by moving into their dorms and orientation, while their parents could meet with the university president later in the evening over food. 

Among the new students to move in on Saturday was Miss Asparagus Festival 2022, Arveen Birdi of Manteca. Charlotte Stackpole, associate director for housing administration, welcomed Birdi with a warm hug during her check-in.  

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“[Arveen] is my daughter’s best friend from high school, and I’m so proud of her,” Stackpole said. “My daughter is leaving to San Diego, so Arveen is going to be my surrogate daughter for the next one year on this campus.” 

According to resident assistant and UoP student Zibbi Madill, what used to be a move-in week in the previous years, became move-in weekend.  

“Last year, we did over a week of a bunch of different move-ins. But Maria Blandizzi, our vice president, came in, and she really wanted to make it feel like a big welcome, a big homecoming,” Madill said. “And she is doing a great job.” 

Victoria Herrera, left, watches her mother Lorena Reyes pick out a tiger stress toy during move-in weekend at University of the Pacific. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

“We are really constructing a new, very intentional program of nine days — two days of move in, two days of orientation and five days a week of welcome,” said Blandizzi, vice president for student life. “The intentional structure program is really there to help our students get onboarded, get connected to their peers, get a feeling [of being] supported by starting their academic career here.” 

The convocation, which marks the beginning of the academic career for the students, is scheduled for Wednesday morning.  

“Once our students leave the auditorium, the entire campus will do what’s called the tiger roar, as our faculty, students and staff will welcome the incoming class,” Blandizzi said. “And then there’ll be 3,000 students out in front of Burns Tower for a lunch.” 

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.