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On a cloudy Thursday, students, parents and staff gathered for block M cookies, ice cream and other refreshments at University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel’s annual open house, hosted at his home on South University.
Before the doors opened, a small crowd of students could be seen waiting outside the house, including LSA freshman Mackenzie Cosand, who came with her hallmates from East Quad.
“People said it was a good idea to come,” she said.
Other groups of freshmen at the event echoed Cosand, saying they didn’t know much about the president, but were just hoping to meet new people and catch a glimpse of Schlissel.
Schlissel opened his house for the first time at the start of the 2014 academic year, his first year as U of M president. The tradition of hosting an annual welcome event began in the 1930s, when wife of the seventh president of the University hosted tea parties for women of the college. The event morphed into one open for all students in the 1950s under then-U o M President Harlan.
On Thursday, the line to shake hands with the President grew quickly, and by 12:15 pm the line filled the first floor of the house and continued past the entrance of the house onto South University. Director of Development Events Jenny Freels said the event normally draws about 800 to 1,000 visitors each year, but could not confirm whether there were more or less this year.
E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, also welcomed students into the president’s backyard.
Schlissel engaged in conversation with students about his days in college, discussing how when he was a freshman, calling home was much more expensive than the common options like FaceTime or Skype students use today.
Aside from freshmen, many older students also attended the event, including LSA junior Jamie Huizinga. Huizinga said she came because she hadn’t yet met the president in person yet.
A group of foreign exchange students explained that they were here just to explore the campus and all the events offered.
“We want to explore everything,” said LSA junior Xin Gu, who transferred from a college in China.