Hatter Saturday’s Campus Showcase Shined

Hatter Saturday was so special that even Steven Alexander, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, got into the action.

In the days leading up to Hatter Saturday, March 16, Reneé Tutchton, Stetson’s director of Admissions and Campus Visitation,, had hoped the day would bring a campus that was energetic and filled with anticipation for both students and their families, where expectations would be met and exceeded, and ultimately would-be Hatters could depart knowing they found their college home. 

“We wanted to encourage our families to split up and really experience the day as much as possible,” Tutchton said. “We wanted them to cover lots of ground! … The whole point was for our accepted students to recognize that Stetson is where they’re going to be happy, where they’re going to thrive, and we wanted their families to know that and feel that as well.” 

Reneé Tutchton, director of Admissions and Campus Visitation

Mission accomplished. 

By all accounts, between just after 9 a.m. until nearly 3 p.m., and informally well beyond, Stetson’s biggest event for accepted students was both the beginning of their experience at Stetson and a promise for good times to come. 

More than 625 people were preregistered for the day, including more than 200 accepted and committed students. Plus, another Hatter Saturday is scheduled for April 6 to “accommodate as many families as possible to come to campus,” Tutchton noted.

Full Agenda

A “Welcome to Stetson” at the Edmunds Center, the largest event venue on campus, set the stage for a grand mix of fun and learning for students and families. There was an academic showcase at the Hollis Center’s Rinker Field House, where attendees connected with faculty and current students in exploration of Stetson’s many research opportunities. There were tours of residential facilities and Greek Village. A community showcase highlighted the fact that success as a Hatter transcends classroom learning. Meanwhile, a Taste of Mainstreet featured many restaurants that surround the campus. Notably, downtown DeLand, with the campus in its midst, is recognized nationwide for its distinct small-town feel.

A fun and friendly vibe permeated the campus.

In addition, there were 17 optional breakout sessions, offering information that ranged from the School of Business Administration’s Experiential Learning Requirement and studying abroad to multicultural student leadership and simply “getting involved.” All events and experiences were open to everyone in attendance. 

Bell ringing could be heard, too, at least 18 times by unofficial count. That happened when an accepted student made a formal commitment to become a Hatter by submitting an admissions deposit. 

Bell ringing was a familiar sound, as students made their commitment to Stetson official.

The ringing  was music to the ears of Shannon Greeley ’14 ’21 (MBA), Stetson’s director of Admissions. “It is so exciting because I know I had an amazing experience here,” Greeley said. “And I know that every student who rings the bell is going to have an amazing experience. To join the hatter family is so emotional in a good way. Exciting.”

Plenty of Other Excitement

Plus, for good measure, other activities were happening on campus. CBS Sports conducted a live interview with Stetson’s head coach (Donnie Jones) and star player (Jalen Blackmon) as part of its national pregame basketball show. The Hatters will be playing in the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

In the midst of Hatter Saturday, CBS Sports conducted a live interview about Hatters men’s basketball.

At the Cooper Beach Volleyball Courts, the women’s Beach Volleyball was matched up against the University of North Alabama, followed by a match with the College of Charleston. Also, just down the road from campus, the Hatters were playing Jacksonville University in baseball at Melching Field stadium.

“This really gave [students] a glimpse of all the things they could look forward to in their college experience if they choose Stetson,” Tutchton asserted with a knowing smile.

‘Relationship-Rich Community’

Prospective students included Erinda Ratchford, who is attending Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She discovered Stetson at Boston-area college fair. Initially attracted by the campus beauty displayed in promotional materials, she sought to learn more, prompting a campus visit last summer. “I loved [that first visit], and I have some family in the area,” she said. “Today has been really welcoming, like family. Stetson is one of my top choices.” 

Lorraine and Erinda Ratchford, mother and daughter, from Massachusetts

Never mind any possible indecision, Ratchford’s mother Lorraine joked that Stetson is the choice. 

“[Hatter Saturday] makes me want to go back to school,” commented Lorraine Ratchford. “Everyone I met is amazing, friendly. 

“Just going to the different tables and seeing the various things and supports that Stetson has for students — to give them a sense of belonging. I’m feeling like [Erinda] is going to be taken care of here. I feel comfortable that she’s going to be okay.”

Talyia Torres and her mother, Josie Irizarry, arrived from Plainville, Connecticut. “What interested me most about Stetson is the beautiful campus and the ROTC program that Stetson offers,” said Torres. “Not only that, but the community is very welcoming and friendly. It feels like one big family, and I already feel like a part of the Hatter family!”

Talyia Torres and her mother, Josie Irizarry, from Connecticut

Torres rang the bell with her mother’s blessing. 

“Hatter Saturday was a very nice, well-organized event,” Irizarry commented. “My daughter was able to visit her areas of interest, ask questions, and even got to personally speak to and spend time with the heads of the departments of her areas of interest. We were able to experience the atmosphere of Stetson. The students are nice and willing to help. The faculty are very enthusiastic about their jobs and students. The classrooms aren’t huge, which makes me feel better, knowing she won’t get lost in the crowd. … As a parent letting my first born go, especially so far away from home, Hatter Saturday helped ease my worries.”

In the end, Tutchton was understandably weary from the work invested but overjoyed with the results.

 “Hatter Saturday has been an extremely successful event,” she concluded. “The group was able to focus on the relationship-rich community that we have here at Stetson. This really was emphasized by the excitement we have around Stetson.”

-Michael Candelaria