Memorable practices—some of which have been part of the College’s culture for decades—create shared experiences that unite past, present and future Muhlenberg students.

By Bill KellerWednesday, March 20, 2019

Ask a student about the moment they knew that Muhlenberg was the college for them, and you’ll hear many answers: the friendliness of the campus community, the attentiveness of admissions counselors, the interest that faculty showed in them on campus tours, the beauty of the College Green. Ask a student about the moments and memories that stand out from their time at Muhlenberg, however, and you’ll likely hear about one (or a few) of the following traditions. Whether these events started organically or are the result of careful planning, one thing is for sure: Muhlenberg wouldn’t be the same without them.

Signing the Matriculation Ledger

Traditions - Matriculation Ledger

Each summer, June Advising brings incoming students and their families to campus as preparation for their first semester at Muhlenberg. These one-day visits allow students to meet their faculty advisors, explore campus and register for their first classes. It's also an opportunity to add their name to the College’s matriculation ledger, a ceremonial step towards the start of a Muhlenberg education. Students and their parents attend an afternoon reception at the President’s house by invitation of John and Diane Williams, and members of the incoming class sign their names and commit to joining the Muhlenberg community.

Candle-lighting at Orientation and Baccalaureate

Traditions - Candlelighting

Each Orientation, students gather on the lawn outside of Haas College Center to celebrate the start of their college experience. As individuals arrive, they’re handed an unlit candle that is soon brought to life through an act of community. President Williams lights the initial candle and then lights the candles of alumni in attendance before the flame is passed along to the first-year students. As the light passes from candle to candle, from student to student, the College's “front lawn” is soon aglow.

That intimate moment is echoed four years later when students gather for Baccalaureate, an interfaith service that precedes Commencement weekend activities for graduating students and their families. As students once again pass light to adjacent peers, they are reminded that Commencement signals both a beginning and an end. The flickering candles held by graduating students serve as the perfect bookend tribute to a four-year experience—and the start of a celebration of what comes next.

Sedehi Diversity Project

Traditions - Sedehi

Created by students in 2006, the Sedehi Diversity Project is named for founder Desirée Sedehi ’08 and is an integral part of Orientation weekend. This documentary theatre piece begins production months before the incoming class arrives on campus: The cast conducts confidential interviews with members of the College community that span issues of race, gender, privilege, income, sexuality, self-expression and what it means to be part of a diverse campus. The resulting exchanges begin to take shape as the basis for a script, with interviewers taking on the roles of campus community members, as well as sharing their own perspectives as Muhlenberg students. Rather than act as a statement of belief for the campus, this often-controversial production is designed to start conversations around difficult topics using authentic voices.

The resulting performances target several distinct audiences: Orientation Leaders, who will help lead group discussions around the different views presented; incoming students, exposed to life away from home for the first time; College employees, who learn about the dialogue occurring on campus; and casts of previous years, students and alumni alike, who are guests at a special reunion performance.

A Cappella Fest

Traditions - A Cappella

Muhlenberg’s 110+ student organizations provide an opportunity to engage in passions, hobbies and interests of all kinds. For the vocally inspired, the College’s six (yes, six) a cappella groups cover an entire spectrum of sound. That joyous noise reaches a crescendo during A Cappella Fest, an event held each April that brings together Muhlenberg’s best singers from the Dynamics, InAcchord, The Girls Next Door, AcaFellas, Chaimonics and Noteworthy, as well as special guests from other colleges and universities. Ticket proceeds benefit a local nonprofit organization, including frequent recipient and community partner, the Allentown School District Foundation.

Sack Day

Traditions - Sack Day

“Movement Workshop for Dancers and Actors” may not ring a bell for most Muhlenberg students, but if you mention one of the class’s performances—Sack Attack, known as "Sack Day"—eyes will light up in recognition. On one day towards the end of each semester, students take to heart the lessons learned from Lecturer of Dance Susan Creitz in an act of public performance. A bustling Seegers Union is suddenly inundated by colorful amorphous sacks that follow Creitz and respond to the raps of a drumstick on her handheld gong. Stretchable fabric sacks obscure faces and identities, requiring performers to use the concepts of shape, time, motion, texture and space to elicit emotion and communicate nonverbally.

Creitz developed the course in the late 1980s, predating the College’s dance program, as a way for dancers and actors to expand ranges of expression and build students’ ability to improvise. Over time, she found that the public performance took on a life of its own, with each class excited to continue the tradition they’d experienced as onlookers. The anonymity provided by the sacks changes the dynamic of dance for both audience and performer, requiring each to leave behind a known comfort zone and explore trust and spontaneity in a public setting.

Jefferson Field Day

Traditions - Jefferson Field Day

Each May on the last Friday of the spring semester before finals week begins, hundreds of Jefferson Elementary students flood onto Muhlenberg’s campus to play and interact with dozens of the College’s students, faculty and staff. This year marks the 28th annual Jefferson Field Day, an event coordinated by the Office of Community Engagement as a yearly celebration of the relationship between the two organizations and a reminder of the College’s commitment to engage in deep, meaningful partnerships with our Allentown neighbors.

Activities span the outdoor fields and the Life Sports Center and include races, obstacle courses and games of skill and chance. Located just a few miles from campus, Jefferson has long served as one of the College’s most enduring community partners, with near-weekly interactions between the school and Muhlenberg’s athletic teams, after-school programs and courses that embrace community-engaged learning experiences.

Finals Traditions

Late-night Breakfast

Muhlenberg’s Wood Dining Commons is legendary on campus for offering incredible food (as evidenced by frequent placement on The Princeton Review’s Best Campus Food list) and a place to connect with friends in an atmosphere unlike any other on campus. When finals week approaches, the College community raises the bar, and faculty, staff and alumni host a late-night breakfast for students. Attendees enjoy a free meal from 10 p.m. to midnight—and may even catch sight of President Williams flipping omelets.

Finals Scream

Relieve a little of your finals-week stress while breaking every library’s number-one rule (that is: shh!). On the first evening of finals, Tina Hertel, director of Trexler Memorial Library, leads a 30-second “stress scream.” The scream may last less than a minute, but the shared moment of solidarity—and much-needed levity—brings together students and the faculty and staff that support them during one of the most demanding weeks of the year. 

Library Forts

Thanks to the support of Muhlenberg’s Student Government Association, Trexler Memorial Library is open and staffed with librarians 24 hours a day during finals week, giving students unfettered access to a quiet space for study and preparation. Some students take full advantage of the opportunity: It’s not unusual to see makeshift forts, constructed of couch cushions and blankets brought from student rooms, acting as impromptu caves where scholarship continues uninterrupted by passers-by.

Senior Week Traditions

Tours of First-Year Residence Halls

Four years can pass in the blink of an eye, and housing and residence life staff do their part to fuel soon-to-be graduates’ nostalgia. During Senior Week, the days following the spring semester’s final exams and before the Commencement weekend activities, seniors can participate in tours of their first-year halls. It’s a reminder that four years of wonderful Muhlenberg experiences can often be traced back to first-semester friendships that took root in Walz, Prosser and Brown Halls.

Senior Class Bell Tower Tours

The Senior Class Connections Campaign is an initiative led by members of the graduating class and Advancement staff. Each year, campaign representatives set a challenge for their peers to make a gift that matches their class year. Those that meet or exceed that figure—$20.19 this year—receive a guided tour of the David A. Miller Bell Tower atop Haas College Center during Senior Week. From there, above the tops of Muhlenberg’s mighty red oak and elm trees, views span the College grounds and Allentown’s West End.

Senior Ball

Traditions - Senior Ball

Senior Week is full of activities, events and celebrations—and the most extravagant of those festivities is Senior Ball, held the Wednesday before Commencement. This formal dinner and dance takes place at The Woodlands, a hotel and entertainment center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Students travel north, often on the College-provided shuttle, for an evening with friends and a few of their staff mentors acting as chaperones. Photos document the gowns and suits worn by the graduating class, and a multicourse dinner is served to the tables of 10 close friends. At the end of the evening, students return via shuttle or retire to their rooms to recover or continue the revelry. In just a few short days, four years as a Muhlenberg student will come to an end.

Champagne Brunch

Traditions - Champagne Brunch

College orientations are whirlwind affairs. For students departing home for the first time, the flurry of forms to fill out, meetings to attend, locations to memorize and people to meet can seem daunting. Knowing how chaotic this experience can be, Muhlenberg Orientation Leaders schedule a moment for reflection into the bustle of the day. First-year students fill out reflection cards—a brief message to their future selves—that are sealed and stored until their last week on campus four years later.

The senior class gathers for Champagne Brunch the Friday before Commencement. Assistant Vice President of Alumni Affairs and Career Services Natalie Hand ’78 P’07 addresses the student body and asks them to open those notes they wrote four years prior. Tears and laughter flow freely as students read their self-addressed messages (and find the occasional $20 bill gifted to their future self) and think back to their first days on Muhlenberg’s campus.

Campus Culture

More Traditions

It's impossible to account for every moment and event that makes Muhlenberg special, but here are a few more additions to our list.