Raise your hand if you had “seeing the University president and dean of Student Affairs dancing in grass skirts” on your Fun Things to Do at Salus bingo card.
Yeah, well, nobody had that.
But there they were – President Dr. Michael H. Mittelman and dean of Student Affairs Dr. James Caldwell – swiveling their hips and moving their grasses around to a Polynesian dance during the sixth annual Salus Scoop in the Hafter Student Community Center gymnasium Sept. 6.
Not only were the two show-stoppers, but they were crowd-pleasers as well, as students, faculty and staff crowded around, hooting and hollering their encouragement and yukking it up over the administrators’ enthusiasm for having a little fun.
“I thought I did OK,” said Dr. Mittelman. “A little WD40 might have worked for me, though.”
“I had to quickly learn control and to keep my hips moving, hands up, and to make good eye contact with the audience. It was fun,” said Dr. Caldwell.
The event – the theme of which was celebrating the Polynesian Islands – was moved indoors from its usual spot on the Hafter Center lawn because of rain, and is designed to introduce first-year students to the various clubs and organizations on campus and to broaden their social and academic involvement with fun-filled and informative activities.
“We want it to be more elevated than a regular club fair, so we have fun things each year,” said Monae Kelsey, assistant director of Admissions and associate director of Student Engagement at the University. “It’s important for people to get together and really understand everything you can get involved with here on campus.”
Mohit Batra, ’21OD, a member of the Campus Activities Committee that helped plan the event, got into the grass skirt and did some dancing, too.
“One of my friends came to me and said, ‘You’re a dancer, you’ve got to do it.’ It’s the first time I’ve done anything like that, though. There’s a comedy element to it. It loosens everybody up,” he said. “We’ve got the food going, we’ve got the culture going, we’ve got the dancing going. It’s fun.”
But the dancing wasn’t the only main attraction of the event. There was also a “Pie the Professor” activity, designed as a fundraiser for Wish Them Well, a Montgomery County, Pa.-based nonprofit organization that puts wells in communities in Togo, a small country in West Africa, so that the residents in those communities can have clean drinking water.
“What I learned with that when these wells go in, it changes the health and wellness of the individuals in those communities,” said Dr. Caldwell. “And that ties into what we do here. Hopefully this will motivate our Salus community to get behind it to spread health and wellness around the globe.”
Joining Dr. Caldwell as targets for a pie in the face were Dr. Melissa Trego, the dean of the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry; and Dr. Lindsay Bondurant, , director of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute and assistant professor in the University’s Osborne College of Audiology. Although they each got a pie in the face, it was Dr. Bondurant who got a second pie in the face for raising the most donations for Wish Them Well.
Students were able to check out the plethora of organizations on campus, stopping at Polynesian-themed tables to learn about the extracurricular activities going on.
“We do a lot of service projects and get involved in the community to raise awareness of what Occupational Therapy is and how we can make a difference for clients,” said Mauli Chothani, ‘20OT, president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), which featured a jar of Skittles on its table providing students the opportunity to guess how many Skittles were in the jar to win a prize. “This is a way for first-year students to learn about how they can get involved.”
The Contact Lens Club offered students a chance to “pin the contact lens on the chicken,” a twist on the “pin the tail on the donkey” party game.
“We’ve had some people come very close today, but haven’t gotten the contact lens pinned on exactly,” said Tanya Vigdal, ’21OD, president of the club. “We do a lot of events where speakers will come in and give the students additional information about contact lenses. We have a good program here and we learn a lot. This just reinforces what we do in the classroom.”
Not only is it a fun event for students, faculty and staff, but Salus Scoop is also designed to help the students grow while they are here.
“We want to see them be great clinicians and we want to see them be excellent professionals,” said Kelsey. “We want them to know that they have a safe space to work on their leadership and networking skills, all the things that they’ll need as a professional in the future.”