One of the key factors in creating a sense of belonging among students is positive relationships with faculty. Research shows that students who feel a connection to their professors are more likely to view their institution as a welcoming place,…
Winter Village Brings Magic to Falk College
Central New York is renowned for snow-covered hills and quaint towns that herald the holiday season. But who would expect to find one of the cutest villages—in miniature—tucked in a nook on the fourth floor of Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics in White Hall?
The whimsical North Pole community, dotted with candy cane trees and mischievous elves, boasts amenities from the requisite post office to a ski resort and beach with docks. The display features dozens of evergreens, a frozen waterfall and skating pond—not to mention hundreds of people, snowmen, reindeer and various modes of transportation to carry them from one end of this winter wonderland to the other. There’s even a Syracuse University section, where the characters are decked out in orange and blue University apparel.
The village is lovingly created and curated by Dianne Seeley, who has been collecting pieces for almost 50 years. Seeley is the operations, space and facilities manager for Falk College and the director of kitchen operations, and has held several roles within Falk and at the University since 2007.
“My favorite part is the looks on people’s faces, especially the kids,” Seeley says.
One awed student suggested the only thing missing is a zip line for the elves. Maybe that will be on Seeley’s Christmas list for next year.
Seeley’s seasonal display started with a handful of houses her mother made her in 1977 from plastic canvas and yarn and has grown over the years as family, friends, students and co-workers have added to her collection.
The Santa Lucia figure was a gift from a Swedish student, and the contractor she worked with on the new roof for the stadium sent her a miniature version of the massive German crane used on the project.
Seeley says her favorite items in the village is a figurine of elves washing a reindeer her children gave her.
Some of her fondest memories are tied to the Christmas village. For decades, she and her sister would each buy two new elves a year—one for their own village and one to give the other. Seeley’s sister passed away four years ago, bringing a bittersweet end to a heartfelt holiday tradition.
For several years after she moved to Syracuse, her Christmas village sat in storage. But in 2015 she brought a few houses to work to brighten her fifth floor office in White Hall.
People loved the little village, and each year she pulled a few more boxes from storage. It outgrew her office. For the last two years, Seeley set up the display in a conference room, where she welcomed adults and children to look and touch all the pieces.
“One of the best things about the conference room was everyone could walk around and see all the details in the village up close,” Seeley said.
Behind the glass, visitors can look but not touch, but so many more people can enjoy it.
Setting up the elaborate display wasn’t easy. Powered by 198 AAA batteries, it took Seeley over 20 hours to assemble, spread over two Saturdays and a week of early mornings before work.
Over the years, Seeley has added personal touches. A golf game features a leaderboard with golfers on the Falk College faculty, including Assistant Dean David Salanger; the fun run race winners are her grandchildren; and the art store, Maddie’s, is named after her granddaughter, a 15-year-old jewelry designer.
This labor of love reflects Dianne Seeley’s creativity throughout.
Looking for a distraction as she underwent chemotherapy treatment in her battle against cancer several years ago, Seeley turned to the holiday village. She handcrafted many of the supports, gluing together layers of foam that she then carved with a paring knife and painted. The waterfall was made from strips of cooled hot glue, the skating pond from resin and the beach from caulk and paint.
Seeley says this may be one of the last years for her Christmas village on the University campus as she is planning to retire soon. So, if you’re looking for a holiday-inspired escape without leaving campus, all it takes is a stroll over the Falk College bridge.
The Christmas village is on display through Jan. 7 and open to the public on the fourth-floor bridge of Falk College.