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Getting new students ready for winter semester

There was the party music, but where was the coffee?

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By Christopher DeMarcus (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: January 8, 2014

New students embrace the atmosphere that filled the gym at orientation.

New students embrace the atmosphere that filled the gym at orientation.

Groggy students filtered into the gym like herds of lost sheep while CIVL radio station manager Aaron Levy switched the music back and forth between underground alternative rock and mainstream top-40 hits. It was too early — 10 a.m. — to get pumped about UFV student life.

There was the party music, but where was the coffee?

Student Life leader Derek Ward-Hall was able to quickly turn the mood. A natural hype man, Ward-Hall’s bombastic MC style quickly transformed itself from an annoying set of marching orders into a series of slamming motivational messages.

“We’re here to get you involved in community issues,” Ward-Hall told the crowd. “There are so many great things to do on campus; all you need to do is ask and we’ll give you the opportunity to get involved.”

The message was received as authentic. Excitement among students started to grow.

The gym, filled with countless tables representing special interest groups and educational departments for students, provided an almost paralyzing range of choices.

“I decided to come to UFV because the location is convenient,” said Michelle Giesbrecht, who recently graduated high school in Abbotsford. “I’m thinking of a nursing degree. I’ve done my chemistry and science classes, so I’m prepared for it.”

Tiffany Towpich is returning to UFV as a mature student.

“I worked in the credit department for CIBC. Both my mother and I were laid off with hundreds of other workers. We were told, supposedly, that we cost the company too much money and jobs were being moved back to Toronto,” she said. “I’m here to do some English courses and for the free lunch.”

The demographics of new students at orientation was diverse. Half were young students fresh out of high school, some local and some from as far away as Burnaby. International students had travelled even further, some from Palestine and India, with interests that ranged from business management to aviation.

“A former VP academic told me that the average UFV student is age 27 with 1.5 kids,” Levy noted, adding some ‘90s music to his playlist. The other half of the assembly was made up of mature students of all ages, from 27 to 67.

A quick video presentation about the life of a mature student was played, but the dialogue was hard for the audience to hear over the presentation’s motivational music. The video’s main theme: UFV houses both traditional and non-traditional students. The university’s goal is to secure learning outcomes and grant degrees to a diverse group of people.

There was no clear popular choice of degree majors for students, but there was a clear distaste for the more hardcore sciences like physics, whose department table saw little traffic. The winter intake at UFV tends to have fewer traditional students because professional degree programs stretch classes across a full year. Most physics courses require students to do the fall semester before jumping in during the winter.

After the pie-eating contest was over, students dressed in Student Ambassador t-shirts split the crowd into groups for a tour around campus. Still high from the free iPad and UFV bookstore prize give-aways, the most popular question among students was, “Where do I get my student ID?”

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