The Charger Blog

University’s New Interim President Helps Welcome Members of the Class of 2026

During one of his first engagements as interim president, Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., interacted with new students and their families during the Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) program. He shared with them his own passion for Charger Nation, as well as his commitment to incoming students’ well-being.

July 19, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Interim President Sheahon Zenger speaking at a podium.
Interim President Sheahon Zenger welcomes new Chargers as part of SOAR.

Jade Lambert-Smith recently visited the University of New Haven for the first time. She and her son Elijah Smith ’26, an incoming Charger, traveled to West Haven from Atlanta for the University’s Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) program.

Lambert-Smith says her son, who had visited the campus once before, chose the University for its forensic science program. They were excited to be at the University in-person with fellow incoming students and families.

“Everyone has been very welcoming and kind,” she said. “We’re both excited. He’s over the moon. He’s been talking about SOAR for the past two months.”

Student leaders welcoming families to SOAR.
SOAR enabled new students and their families to visit the University.
‘We’re here to help you every step of the way’

The program offers incoming students such as Smith an interactive, engaging, and fun opportunity to meet and connect with their new classmates and members of the University community. New students interact with the dean of their academic college or school as well as with students from their program of study.

As part of SOAR, new Chargers and their families also met Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., who recently stepped into a new role of his own: that of interim president. Dr. Zenger greeted the newest members of Charger Nation with a warm welcome, sharing his own story of joining the University in 2019 as director of athletics and recreation. A native of the Midwest, he enthusiastically discussed his passion for the local beaches and pizza, as well as for the University and local communities.

“I have fallen in love with this part of the world and with the people,” said Dr. Zenger. “You made a courageous decision to come to the University of New Haven, and courage is a choice. We couldn’t be more excited, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.”

A students walk with their parents through the quad.
Members of the Class of 2026 and their families were excited to visit the University as part of SOAR.
‘There’s also fun to be had’

Addressing the new Chargers was among Dr. Zenger’s first activities as interim president, a role he officially began earlier this month as part of the University’s innovative leadership transition. His predecessor, Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., who served as president of the University for 18 years, was named the University’s first chancellor and CEO.

Dr. Zenger reminded new students of the power they have, encouraging them to consider the friends they will make and the exciting opportunities they will have as Chargers. While he stressed the importance of academics, he also encouraged them to get involved on campus and enjoy their time at the University.

“I’m always amazed and impressed by the quality of the students who choose the University,” he said. “I’ve always told my own children these should be the best four or five years of your life. These are some of the most critical years of your life in how you develop. There’s a lot at stake, but there’s also fun to be had.”

Interim President Sheahon Zenger welcomes new Chargers as part of SOAR.
Interim President Sheahon Zenger welcomes new Chargers as part of SOAR.
‘I love what I see’

During SOAR, members of the Class of 2026 also learned about a variety of the organizations, activities, and support offered at the University. They heard from staff from departments such as the Career Development Center, the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Center for Student Engagement, Leadership, and Orientation who all look forward to offering their guidance.

“There is a place for each of you on campus, and you will find it,” said Paige Bartels, LCSW, director of the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “We are here to support you.”

Designed to ensure a smooth transition to the University community, SOAR enabled the University’s newest Chargers and their families to get a taste of what life as a student will be like at the University. The program included information about dining services at the University, something that was reassuring for many parents of new students.

“I get nervous, as I want to make sure my son is going to be able to eat well, and there are lots of options at the University,” said Unika Laney, who traveled with her son from New Jersey to attend SOAR. “I love that the University has food trucks available to the students. So far, I’m very impressed, and I love what I see. My son is also loving what he’s seeing. He’s excited.”

Students pose for a photo at SOAR
Members of the Class of 2026 and their families were excited to visit the University as part of SOAR.
‘He made everyone feel at home’

SOAR enables students to get to know each other through a variety of fun and interactive activities. A team of orientation coordinators and orientation and transition leaders – current students eager to welcome their new classmates – makes sure they get a warm welcome to Charger Nation.

“It’s pretty cool being here,” said Adam Oppenheim ’26, who had come from Westbury, New York, to attend SOAR. “I’m excited about being a student and I’m excited about the idea of studying the minds of people as a forensics student.”

“I like the campus,” added his mother Angela Oppenheim. “I think there’s a lot of support here, and that’s important because he’ll be more than an hour from home.”

In addition to providing information about life as a Charger, the program aims to help new students and their families feel welcome and reassured. For Lambert-Smith, the parent visiting the University from Atlanta, she felt comfortable and excited as she prepared to send her son to college. She appreciated the opportunity to see the campus and to hear from members of the University community as part of the program.

“I thought President Zenger was very engaging and welcoming, and he made everyone feel at home at the University,” she said. “I loved that he balanced talking about students’ social lives and academic lives, since both are important. He sounded very interested in their well-being.”

Families walking together on campus.
SOAR enabled new students and their families to visit the University.