Spirited welcome greets students

Students spent the first day of fall semester finding classrooms, buying books and returning to old routines Tuesday.

For conservation biology graduate student Heidi Holman, the day was a peaceful reunion.

“It’s nice to see some familiar faces,” Holman said as she rested in the shade of a towering oak on the St. Paul campus.

“I think people are excited to be here, but there are still those taking time to lay out,” she said.

The scene inside Coffman Union was starkly different. Students crammed onto escalators while others waited in line to buy books. Another line of students snaked around the cafeteria, waiting to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Nursing education graduate student Stephanie Goese described book-buying as “frantic” while taking a break outside Smith Hall.

“I’m just enjoying some time outside,” she said.

First-day jitters were not an issue for biology senior Rachael Gordon, who described the day as uneventful. She said the first day was more exciting for new students.

“You can tell the younger students from the older ones,” she said. “(Younger students) are looking down at their maps. The upperclassmen are more out to enjoy the day and see friends.”

While harried first-year students could be found throughout the University, first-year students Tom Reinert, Nick Cabillot and Patrick Vogl were unfazed by the first-day activities.

The three lounged outside of Coffman Union, discussing their classes and professors while more hurried students milled around.

“They know what they’re talking about,” Cabillot, an art student, said of his professors.

Reinert and Vogl agreed, adding the professors here really seem to care about their subjects, which impressed the three.

Many students played Frisbee and congregated outside the four superblock residence halls Tuesday afternoon.

“My first day is absolutely wonderful,” first-year student Molly Schultz said. “It is really easy to find everything, and everyone here is really friendly and easy to get along with.”

Helping U transition

While the first day went well for Schultz and Reinert, the University was also prepared to help more anxious newcomers navigate the two-city, 2,000-acre campus for the first time.

To help a new crop of first-year and transfer students, the Orientation and First-Year Programs Office handed out 1,000 square maroon and gold “Ask Me” buttons to University staff and student community advisers.

They are encouraged to wear the buttons around campus so lost students can ask for help or directions. They are also encouraged to keep a map on hand and to read a list of frequently asked questions to prepare for inquiring students, said LeeAnn Melin, director of Orientation and first-year programs.

“A lot of the questions we get are about getting to class,” Melin said. “It also gives faculty and students a chance to be helpful, because many of them want to help and don’t always know how.”

Maggie Cosgrove, a student worker at Orientation and First-Year Programs, was on hand with her “Ask Me” button at Coffman Union.

The student who approached her did not need directions, though – she wanted to know whether to attend lab if the class had yet to meet.

“Man, I didn’t know the answer to that one,” Cosgrove said. “If you wear these buttons you get attacked!”

March through the Mall

The University’s sixth annual New Student Convocation at Northrop Auditorium began with an academic procession of approximately 150, including the Board of Regents and University President Bob Bruininks.

Attendees cheered for the marching band and for first-year student speaker Vincent Pham. Pham announced there are slightly more women than men in the Class of 2007.

Student speakers carried inspirational words for new students. Second-year law student Gulzar Babaeva opened the program by urging the audience to get involved in University activities.

“You are the ultimate creators of your college education,” she said.

Microbiology professor Leslie Schiff urged students to “work hard, have fun and don’t be afraid to make some mistakes.”

The ceremony closed with marching band director Jerry Luckhardt taking the stage and teaching the audience the University’s alma mater song and rouser.

– Staff reporters Jens Krogstad, Kari Petrie, Mary Stegmeir and Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this report.