“Toto, we’re not in high school anymore.”

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

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So I’m driving to work this morning, thinking about today, which seems a little anticlimactic after an earthquake and a hurricane. But while today may seem like the calm after the storm, today could prove equally eventful as freshmen attend their first college classes. It is the universal freshman experience that comes before the full bore Madison Experience.

Today, freshmen are crisscrossing campus to Showker and Harrison and Forbes. They are hunting for room numbers and finding seats, hoping to see friendly faces and smiling professors. 

Michelle Hite (’88), editor of Madison magazine, remembers her first JMU class. “Mine was oceanography,” she says, “and there were about 100 people in it. There hadn’t been 100 people in my high school class!”

Another alum I asked said, “I remember I didn’t sleep a ton the night before. I worried about not looking like a freshman and knowing where I was going. Even though I really didn’t know. I am sure I thought a lot about what to wear before I realized that college is way different than high school. Sweatpants and flip flops are more acceptable. I was completely overwhelmed when I received all my syllabi. I wondered how I would ever survive — and none of the work had even been handed out.”

I remember my first class clearly. I was the only freshman in a sophomore political science class. It was intimidating. It was also incredibly exciting. I had arrived. Little did I know, however, that I had only begun.

Some freshmen will saunter into class today confident that this is just grade 13. Others will slip in, sit on the back row and take it all in. For all of them, it will be a new experience — even those who took college/AP/IB courses in high school. Today is their beginning, and I wonder how today’s freshmen are handling their first forays into their JMU classrooms? Did they make it to their 8:00 classes? Did they even sleep last night? How did they fare with no moms around to roust them out of bed, with no morning announcements by the principal reminding them where to be and when, and with no more calls from the principal’s office if they skipped school or showed up late.

Some, certainly, have had Dorothy moments: “Toto, we’re not in high school anymore.”

This summer we’ve been featuring 100 alumni — all freshmen once — in 100 days to celebrate the 100 years of the Alumni Association. Each had his or her own first class day at JMU.  Was it a music class? Was it English? Was it geology or economics? Do you remember that day? Where was your first class? Who was your professor? What were you thinking? Did you understand where this monumental day might take you? For freshmen, expectations are great. Their potential is even greater.

It has been a long time and an eventful road since that first class for most alumni. They survived day one and the next and the next. Some, like Phil Vassar (’85) and Charles Haley (’87) found fame and fortune, just as some in the Class of 2015 will no doubt. I wonder if Phil and Charles had an inkling of that when they sat down in their first class?  I wonder what they remember about their first class?

How about you?  What do you remember?

To follow the 100 alumni in 100 days, visit: http://www.jmu.edu/alumni/awards/centennial.shtml

Read more about Phil Vassar who is featured on the JMU website this week:  http://www.jmu.edu/

To get a glimpse of the Class of 2015’s first week on campus, visit: http://www.jmu.edu/jmuweb/general/news/general11684.shtml


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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