First Day on the Diag

Read time: 4 minutes

Photos by Leisa thompson

The first day of classes on Aug. 30 brought an undeniable energy back to the Ann Arbor campus. And at no place was that more evident than on the Diag. For the first time in nearly 18 months, students populated the pedestrian crossroads—meeting, greeting, eating, and generally having a great time.

To provide a glimpse of that day, Michigan Alum spent time over the course of 12 hours recording the comings and goings. And we saw it all, from first-year students looking just a bit lost to old friends giving each other a big hug. From skateboarders, bikers, and dog walkers to runners and slack liners. Those playing frisbee and those playing chess. We even saw a famous athletic coach passing out doughnuts. 

The common theme among the students we talked to was delight at being back on campus and able to interact again in person rather than through a screen.

Juwan Howard with Students
While handing out maize and blue doughnuts to students, men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard, ’97, paused for a photograph with junior Kamilah Sobers. Sobers, who is studying sports management, was excited to share the photo with her family, who are big fans.
Students in Hammock
Students Claire Maciolek and Robert Dilg relax on their hammock between classes, saying they’re just glad to be back.
Photo of Friends Meeting
First-year student Juliet Dineen, center, gets a hug from junior Greta Hoffman. Both are from California. Dineen was happy to see the familiar faces of her sister’s friend group, including junior Josh Brodsky. “It was the earliest I’ve been out of the house in 1 1/2 years,” said Brodsky.
Photo of student with volleyball
First-year student Elijah Weinberg has family connections to the University—both his father and grandmother attended.
Photo of student orientation
First-year student Skye Lee, right, gets directions from Gabrielle Piazza of the Center for Campus Involvement, left, and Janel Sutkus, director of student life research. Lee, who is from California, is proud of herself for making a huge leap by traveling across the country while most of her friends are staying home. She added that she’s grateful for this new experience.
Photo of a student twirling poi balls
A graduate student in social work, Moss Herberholz works the poi balls on a slack line, which he says improves balance and cardio. Herberholz is grateful to be back in person and connecting to new people.
New friends playing chess
Senior Forest Zhang, right, congratulates sophomore Ben Li after Li beat him in a game of chess. Li and Zhang, members of the Michigan Chess Club, had been playing chess on the Diag every day since returning to U-M.
Student reading a book
Sophomore Shannon Foulds already had homework from her first class, Human Musculoskeletal Anatomy. Sitting by the grasses near the Kraus Building, Foulds was happy after her in-person class, believing there’s more stimulation and interaction than in online classes.
Game of connect 4
Junior Miles Bronson, left, competed against sophomore Sachin Rammoorthy in a giant game of Connect 4 during Shapiro Library’s Party for Your Mind festivities.
Students hanging out on the diag
First-year master of public health students, in center, from left, Muhammad Qadir, Chad Wang, and Billy Dering look like lifelong friends but had just met within the past day.
Students sharing a laugh
From left, first-year students Anthony Vanlian, Jade Ge, and Emily Song chill out between classes. They all agreed that people are so friendly after not socializing much over the past 18 months. Said Vanlian, “I’m an introvert, and I’ve made so many new friends!”
Students with Violin Monster
Graduate student Enas (who didn’t want to use her last name), left, and senior Joshua Zhang posed for a photograph with Ann Arbor’s Violin Monster after interviewing him for one of their classes.
Teacher outside lecturing
English Professor Hadji Bakara, in the white shirt, held his Literature and Human Rights class outside so he could see his students’ faces without masks and get a sense of who they are. He’s considering getting cushions so the students don’t have to sit on the wet grass again.
Students on the diag at night
Juniors Gretchen Stemmler, left, and Medina Sabic study while the hustle and bustle continues around the Diag, even after sunset.

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