Summer of a thousand questions

UnknownThe summer before freshman year of college is usually one to remember — three months filled with last minute memories, bittersweet farewells, and often a certain amount of anxiety.

Will I fit in? Will I be able to find my classes? What size television will fit? Can I bring my  iguana? Do I need a fan? How much can I cram under my bed?

It’s the summer of a thousand questions.

This summer, JMU senior Anthony Bowman set up and managed an open Facebook page to allow incoming freshmen  — the Class of 2017 — to ask seasoned students about what to expect, what to pack, what to do, how to prepare — and a thousand other random but important questions.

Anthony, a music education major from Greenbelt, Md., who’ll graduate in December, actually started helping with JMU freshman Facebook pages much earlier.

“When I got back home after my freshman year, I missed JMU a lot, so I just started to help answer questions for the incoming Class of 2012 as a connection to JMU.  Starting with the Class of 2014, I was very active with the groups to the point that a lot of my free time in the summers was dedicated to helping out. Most of the Facebook groups were started by other people. However, I really wanted to be in charge from the beginning this year, so I made one back in January. There are actually two groups. I’m the administrator for one, and help out in the other.”

The response has been pretty phenomenal. Anthony’s FB page has more than 3,300 members, evidence that the advice from Anthony and others is welcomed.

JMU's answer man, Anthony Bowman

JMU’s answer man, Anthony Bowman

“Whether it’s just helping them decide whether JMU is right for them, or providing information about what to expect during their first year and beyond, it’s fun to help. I’ve always thought of the Facebook groups as a bridge connecting them to JMU — in addition to the One Book and the many university offices.  I think it’s important that so many current students decide to help each summer, too. I may be one of the more frequent helpers, but everyone who helps out contributes a great deal — even correcting me when I don’t give correct or accurate info. Its just another way for current JMU students to help out the JMU community.”

Throughout the summer, Anthony has fielded all kinds of questions — what to bring and what not to bring —  how and when to buy textbooks — and an interesting discussion about aquatic pets, he says.

One incoming freshman wrote a note of thanks on the page:

With housing stuff calming down I just want to thank everyone who has helped the incoming freshmen on this page, especially Anthony Bowman. Ant you have dedicated so much of your time to helping answer question after question and you have been nothing but enthusiastic and a total blessing through this entire process. Your love for JMU is contagious and incredibly evident. You really embody the true excellence that is a JMU student. From what you’ve said I can tell it’s been a long journey for you, but I wish you nothing but the best as you graduate this year! I know you’ll do great wherever life ends up taking you. Thanks a million and God Bless 

Ant-logo_4Social media has changed the landscape for incoming freshmen. By the time the Class of 2017 arrives on campus next week for Orientation, they’ll know more people, have more information, and be better prepared than their counterparts were just a handful of years ago.

Once they are on campus, of course, the questions won’t stop. It’s all part of the process of getting settled into a new environment. Starting from the minute freshmen step on campus, they’ll be able to ask their FROGS, OPAs, RAs and ANTS.  They’ll quickly learn the acronyms : FROGS — Freshmen Orientation Guides; OPAs — Orientation Peer Advisers; RAs — the Residence Advisers; and ANTS — Assisting New Transfer Students.

Anthony knows that well. “I was a FROG the year I helped out the Class of 2015, so I had a chance to make impacts in person with my first year students in Ashby Hall that year, along with the rest of my amazing FROG group and awesome OPAs,” he says.

Perhaps as important as all the answers that Anthony and friends dole out is this:  It is proof positive that JMU is a community determined to see students succeed.

Giving them opportunities to ask a thousand questions is a good place to start.

To learn more, check out the embedded links.

Wisdom from a fortune cookie

An unopened fortune cookie

Image via Wikipedia

I once loved Mediterranean furniture — that heavy, ornate, often red Morrocan-influenced or black wrought iron furniture. It was beautiful, and when I grew up I was sure my house would be filled with Spanish drama, bold colors and all of the trappings of a real Mediterranean Villa. Something right off the Costa Del Sol —  you’d almost be able to hear the crowd roar from a bullfight.

Something happened, however, as I “traveled” through four years of college.  My tastes changed. My penchant for all things Mediterranean gave way to an appreciation of traditional and classical styling. Black and red lost its luster. I gravitated toward more serene colors, blues, yellows and creams.

I opened a fortune cookie recently at a great new Asian restaurant in Harrisonburg. The message inside read, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” It made me think about all of the changing we do in life, but how on a university campus, change is endemic.

I’m not sure there’s a point in our lives save infancy when we humans change more than we do during our college years. That transformation from childhood to adulthood (ask any parent of a college student) is exciting, exhausting, sometimes scary and troublesome, but most of all, it’s wonderful.  On a college campus, every student is exposed to new ideas, new people, new points of view and new opportunities which — please forgive the cliche — open doors literally, figuratively and in every way possible. College is a plethora, a smorgasbord, a D-Hall full of experiences opened for students to learn and grow and change.

Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do. Those fortunate few know from day-one exactly what they want to study.  Many, however, go through many iterations. Some students change majors as frequently as birds change branches before they settle into a discipline that feels right.

Today on campus — right now in fact — some two hundred members of the class of 2015 are getting their first real taste of Madison. With the help of dozens of FROGS — the acronym for Freshman Orientation Guides — new freshmen are scheduling classes, learning the ropes, making friends, and without a doubt, quelling some fears and generating some others. They are getting ready for enormous change. Some will be sharing a room for the first time. Some will choose an major because it sounds interesting. Some will agree with their new roommates on a blue rug and loft beds. Some will remain undecided on a major and others will learn about a field that intrigues them or meet a professor who inspires them. And while many are likely to change their minds several times, what’s essential is that they are willing to change and grow and leap into the Madison Experience.

This kind of change is exciting. It is a new phase of life, but more importantly it is the beginning of a growth spurt unmatched in their young lives thus far. They will grow up, grow wiser, make good decisions and some bad decisions, learn a heck of a lot, stretch their thinking, hone their abilities, explore their talents, have a whole lot of fun and, in the end, they will come out ready to change the world.

So, today, we welcome part of the Class of 2015.

To read more about JMU’s FROGS (for some it will take you back!) and the orientation process, go here:

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