JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 27, 2002 – “In high school you live with your parents and visit your friends, and in college you live with your friends and decide when you want to visit your parents,” said Todd Brady, minister to the university, as he spoke during the Saturday evening worship service held at the end of the first day of New Student Orientation.
When asking incoming parents and freshman about their first impressions of Union, nine out of 10 or better commented on how everyone was so friendly. At a time in life in which all things are new and you are in essence ‘exiled from your home by force or by choice’ as Jay Ridenour, director of discipleship ministries, put it, the friendships formed during the first week of orientation and classes can determine the whole outcome of the semester. These friends will change Union from a unfamiliar place into a new home, a place to feel at rest and be comfortable.
At the FOCUS show on Sunday night, the FOCUS leaders presented a short skit on ‘The Roommate You Never Want to Have’. The examples varied from the perky morning roomate to the one who refuses to do any room-wide chores. Amazingly, many rooms come together so well that God’s hand is obvious in its presence.
Nikki Parnell, Mandy Zahn, Donna Reed, Heather Phillips, and Hannah Cotner make up the girls of Blythe 1. They come from as near as Jackson to as far as Mt. Carmel, Ill., and their majors vary from art to nursing and veterinary medicine to political science, but in each other they have found friends.
“We didn’t really have any contact before Saturday,” said Zahn of her roommates. “We spoke for a few minutes at Freshman Registration and got an e-mail, but that was it.”
“If we were all the same it would be kind of boring,” said Reed. “So I think it works out well that we’re all so different.”
Friendship abounds beyond the dorm room as well. At the Ice Cream Social hosted by President and Mrs. Dockery on Monday night, sophomore Sarah Anderson and freshman Brandon Thornsberry found in the course of polite conversation that their interests ran almost exactly parallel to each other, all from a simple question about what degree Thornsberry would be pursuing. A little farther back in the yard, an exciting game of elbow tag was being played bringing together many who had not yet had a chance to meet.
Other Monday night activities also encouraged students to get out and meet others both in their class and whoever else was there. There was capture the flag being led by SGA President, Keelan Cook, and sophomore John Reed which called participants to strategize and cooperate with teammates who they’d never seen before. In the student lounge, the Open Mic Night had drawn quite a crowd as well, as students shared in melody and comedy and whatever else they wished.
Another activity set up to encourage the mingling of students was the Meet and Greet around the fountain Sunday night. All around could be heard the ebb and flow of conversation as friends introduced friends and random individuals met up with groups of future classmates. Meet and Greet is just a small matter compared to the Howdy Party occurs on Tuesday night once all the upperclassmen arrive.
“You have come to Union to do well in life, following the will of God,” said Brady in his address Saturday night. Forming these relationships is a large part of that. At another point in his message he talked about the Zacchaeus Principle. “Zacchaeus climbed the tree so that he could see Jesus. He had to put himself in the right position and sometimes you need to get yourself in the right position so that you can see Jesus more clearly. When was the last time you crawled up the tree? There are trees all over campus.”
Once all is said and done, these dorm mates and friends formed in class and at the various events throughout school will not only get the freshman class through that next test but through homesickness and stress and all the wonders and horrors that are a part of being a freshman in college. They are also what will change Union from a school to a home and classmates from unknown others to family.
By Alaina Kraus, Class of 2005
Sara B. Horn,