By Bonnie Cavanaugh
College is hard enough without having to worry about where to sleep. So, when Drew University senior Victoria Andrews of Budd Lake arrived to campus in early September to help new students move in, she was a bit disappointed to find that her own dorm room wasn’t ready.
Luckily, she ran into the one person with the immediate authority to help her out: Drew University President MaryAnn Baenninger.
“I was walking across campus before Move-In Day, and happened upon Victoria and her family discussing her room not being ready,” Baenninger says.
It didn’t help that it was raining, and Andrews was hauling her luggage around campus, notes Drew spokesman Stuart Dezenhall.
The university’s maintenance crew had been working on Andrews’ room, but it wouldn’t be ready for several days. Meanwhile, Andrews, who hadn’t been scheduled to move back early, had agreed to help incoming freshmen get settled on Move-In Day early the next morning. It’s her third year with the program.
The university president then did something rather unusual: she offered Andrews her own on-campus accommodations for the weekend.
“She volunteered to end her summer early, and come back to Drew to help usher in the new class of first-year students,” Baenninger adds. “It was only right to offer her a place to stay.”
Otherwise, Andrews says she would have returned home and commuted the roughly 27.5-mile trip back to the Madison campus early the next morning. A Sociology major with a minor in History, Andrews says that she was “honestly shocked and honored at the same time.”
“We just ran into each other on campus,” she says. “Surprisingly, I told her the situation, and she came to the rescue. I will be forever grateful.”
She stayed with President Baenninger for four days, and the location could not have been better for the busy college student. “It was approximately a two-minute walk from her house to my dorm room.”
While the two shared the same property, Andrews boarded in the president’s annex house, not in her actual quarters. So, they weren’t exactly bunkmates, streaming videos and staying up all night. “However, she did help me move all my stuff into her garage, which was very kind of her,” Andrews says.
Baenninger, who came to Drew University in July 2014, is the school’s first full-term female president in its 152-year history. She attended Philadelphia’s Temple University, where she earned her BA and PhD in Psychology, according to the Drew University web site. She says sharing her on-campus accommodations brought back some of her own college memories.
“While we weren’t bunking in the dorms, it had still been awhile since I’d shared a roof with a college student,” Baenninger says. “It reminded me of days having my own kids in the house, too.”
“Victoria is such a lovely young woman,” Baenninger notes, adding that she was also a “very conscientious” houseguest. “She touched base by text to let me know of her comings and goings.”
Andrews rates the experience as one of the best she’s had at the university. “This is up there with working for the Walt Disney Company during my Fall 2018 semester,” she says. The president’s kindness was also reassuring. “Her hospitality was really comforting,” she adds. “I knew that Drew University was the best choice I made for my education.”
Baenninger says that it’s all part of the university’s core values. “At Drew, we take pride in providing the best possible experience for our students,” she says. “That’s why you hear so much about our culture of mentorship, and why there are so many examples of professors and staff going above and beyond to connect with and help students.”
“It’s one of my favorite things about the Drew community,” she adds.