What To Expect From Your Freshman Year at UT

As summer slouches toward its inevitable conclusion, a magical transformation takes place at the University of Tampa. The signs are hard to catch at first, as it’s 187 degrees in the shade and anyone who goes outside risks bursting into flames. But change is upon us. It’s almost like butterfly season: the professors are emerging.

Students are responding to this in kind. The first time I saw a professor pacing the grounds who I knew wasn’t here to teach a class was also the first time I saw a colorful flier suggesting I “GET LEI’D” at an upcoming pool party.

But no amount of quick, wet leis will change the fact that the fall semester is coming with a vengeance. Soon, the freshmen will be stampeding, roaming, and, indeed, grazing all around our beloved campus. And they will begin to ask themselves a question that we’ve all asked at some point in our lives: What the heck is Gateways?

Gateways, like Information Technology Management, occupies that bizarre twilight zone between “class” and “orientation activity” that never seems to get resolved. English 101 and Global Issues suffer from the same fate, though to a lesser extent, since they at least have an idea what they’re about. First-hand accounts tell me that Gateways can be about anything from balancing your checkbook to watching a movie; it all depends on which professor you get.

According to UT’s website, one of the functions of the Gateways program is to help students “lay down plans for career paths they will pursue after college.” Another is to teach students about “setting realistic goals.” If UT’s administration was really adept at the latter, they would know that for the average incoming freshman the former is impossible.

Freshmen, naturally, are not to blame for this. I consider myself a pretty smart cookie, yet I’ve completely scrapped my career plans approximately 4,873 times in the last three years. The last time I changed one of my minors was last semester. And I’m one of the lucky ones who actually had a major when I came in: I’ve seen people make bizarre transformations in their first year alone, such as from Creative Writing to Finance, or Liberal Studies to traveling rock and roll roadie.

I even considered dropping out once: I believe my career objective that week was “lovable scamp,” a role for which I admit UT has prepared me better than I thought possible. But I digress. It’s high time – nay, past time – that the administration start considering better possible uses for the time of our freshmen. A few years back I suggested they spend the time learning to kill zombies, and while I still think this is a critical life skill, I’ve come up with a few other possibilities.

1) Instead of meeting in a class with a professor who may or may not be in one’s discipline, schedule students for the introductory classes in their field so they might meet a potential advisor. This way, we can get ’em while they’re young; by the time they’re juniors they should be cranking out research papers in independent studies.

2) Cut out a block of time to make events like “Get the Scoop on UT Groups” mandatory. Most of what people will study in the four years they’re here is written down in a book somewhere; their participation in extracurriculars really helps to define their experience.

3) Overhaul Global Issues. Completely. The real U.N. isn’t a place where everyone whispers “Hey, everyone agree on everything so we can get out by six,” while Ban Ki-Moon’s back is turned, and the model version shouldn’t be, either. I had a good time in Global Issues, but then, as this column has proven time and time again, I’m easily amused. The “add-ons” could use some work.

4) Organize a high-powered scavenger hunt to the most important places on campus that people might otherwise never hear about: for example, the Saunder’s Writing Center and ACE. There was a time when I would’ve added The Minaret office to that list, but at the rate we’re going, we’ll be beaming our content directly into readers’ brains by 2009.

5) Toss out Information Technology Management completely. By the time they get here, a good portion of incoming freshmen both now and in the future will probably have computer skills on par with the average Microsoft Certified Support Technician. Others will never use Excel in their entire professional lives. Come on, UT; your roots are showing.

Of course, for those of us who’ve been here a while – especially those who don’t leave campus even in the summer, no matter how often Security turns the hoses on us – freshmen are kind of like tourists. And, like tourists, some of them are deciding if they’d rather spend the next four years surfing or skiing. But since most of them will end up staying we’d best get used to it.

Of course, if you want to do a wandering freshman a real favor, you can point them toward The Minaret’s special freshman-oriented edition, which will be out in time for the end of orientation. Maybe if we’re all really lucky, their Gateways professors will make time to show it to them. Little steps, UT, little steps.

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