NEW PORT RICHEY— Samantha Szydlowski picked at her fingernails in the large lecture hall as she listened to Bob Bade, a charismatic man with a booming voice, review some tips for the incoming freshman . She wasn’t the only nervous student at the school that day.
Around the room, the students, only one group of dozens across Pasco-Hernando Community College’s four campuses, sat back in their chairs, serious looks on their faces as they took in the information during PHCC’s Get Acquainted Day on the New Port Richey campus last Friday.
Sit in the front of your class. Ask questions. Raise your hand and answer questions. Turn your assignments in on time. These were just a few suggestions made by the professors who spoke. Peppered into the advice were questions from students that made students laugh and slump back into their seats, more comfortable.
“Are we allowed to use laptops?” a student asked.
“In my class, yes, but no Facebook. No texting. It takes away from the lecture,” said Kelvin Faison, an assistant professor of psychology.
“What if you say something inspirational and we want to post it to Facebook?” Faison did his Eddie Murphy laugh impression in response.
“That’s a good one,” Faison said. “What’s your name?”
“Taylor, post it after class.”
The event serves as more than just an extended orientation for students, said Bade, Dean of Student Development and Enrollment Management. It’s a chance for incoming freshman to acclimate to the campus and make connections with fellow students and faculty.
The day starts off with a meet-and-greet and various ice breaker activities before students are introduced to department heads and professors. Then, students are broken off into smaller groups and led on campus tours, allowing them to walk their routes to the classes they’re already signed up for so they aren’t rushing to find them on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 19.
They’re also given planners with the semester’s events listed in them.
Along the way, they can ask specific questions about the campus, where particular buildings are, what’s allowed, whether they can bring non-PHCC students to club meetings and activities. On that last one, the answer is no.
“Can we skateboard to class?” asked a freshman.
“I wouldn’t,” said student ambassador Mary Van Vlack.
More than 200 students registered for the event, which is separate from the mandatory orientation freshman attended earlier, which Bade describes as a “one-hour PowerPoint presentation.”
“The key to this is connections,” Bade said, “so that when they show up on campus, they’re so much more comfortable and a heckuva lot less anxious. They’ll come across several faculty members and administration who already know them by name.”
Szydlowski, a Mitchell High School graduate, is one of those students more likely to stick out the associate’s program at the college and later transfer to a university. With five classeson her plate, she’s ready to hit the books and is far less anxious because of the she spent last Friday at the extended orientation.
“It’s making me feel more comfortable about attending my first day of class,” Szydlowski said. “I’m also excited. This is going to sound nerdy, but I’m excited about learning. I’m excited to just get back into school.”
In addition to more practical advice, like “don’t write in your textbooks until you’re sure you’ll be using that book in class,” were lighter pieces of advice, only half-serious.
“Don’t fall in and out of love during the semester,” Faison warned. “It’ll put you behind. Did you know that falling in love is the closest to mentally ill you’ll ever experience?”
The students left for lunch laughing.