July 3, 2014
By Jeff Schweers
Lex Weiner is taking summer classes for the second time in his three years as a student at the University of Florida. The first time was as a freshman.
This time, the third-year business major is willingly spending the dog days of summer in Gainesville because of a job. “I received a position in Gator Growl, which required me to be here over Summer B,” said Weiner, who hails from Boca Raton.
He’s also the rush chair for his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, which requires him to be here over the summer, when temperatures have been known to reach the upper 90s. “It’s hot, but a bunch of friends came back for the summer,” Weiner said. “It’s not that bad, to be honest.”
Nearly 30,000 students have returned to campus during the hottest, stickiest time of the year for Summer B — the six-week crash course that began this week. Summer B has become the start of the academic year for more than half the student body.
For returning students, Summer B can be a better time to take tough classes, Weiner said. “I have time to focus on my studies, grind out the classes and get good grades.”
Kenny Cutler, a third-year finance major from Miami, is taking nine hours this term.
“I’m attempting a double major in Spanish,” he said. “I need as many credits as I can get.”
About 2,000 freshmen arrived over the weekend for Monday’s start of Summer B, getting a jump on the other 4,000-plus members of their class who plan to start school next month. Arriving six weeks ahead of time gives those early starters a chance to learn the ins and outs of the university, take classes with fewer students in them and ease into campus life.
On Tuesday, the Gator Book Store was filled with freshmen and parents, opening bank accounts, getting their Gator1 cards, buying meal plans and paying for classes.
“It’s overwhelming. There is so much information,” said Eric Escobades of Orlando. He and his wife brought his daughter Adrianna up to begin her freshman year.
“It’s exciting, and it’s scary, which is typical for a freshman,” Adrianna Escobades said.
The University of Florida is offering a slew of activities to make those dog days more fun and go by more quickly.
“We have a lot going on,” said Jen Day Shaw, associate vice president and dean of students.
That includes the traditional weeks of the welcome program, Preview, and other activities to help new students get familiar with campus and get engaged with other students. UF has events designed to create a common experience for the Class of 2018, Shaw said.
Adrianna Escobades — who moved into the dorms last weekend — said she plans to take advantage of those events to make new friends.
As in years past, freshmen will be assigned a common book to read. This year it’s “The Good Food Revolution” by Will Allen, a former basketball player and inner-city activist based in Milwaukee who has come up with some ingenious ways to populate urban food deserts.
Allen is scheduled to speak at the Aug. 22 convocation at UF, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. in the O’Connell Center. Convocation is one of the few times all of the members of the Class of 2018 will have a chance to gather together, Shaw said.
Campus planners had to get creative this year with their activities, Shaw said, with the $75 million renovation of the Reitz Union in full swing. The renovation includes a 100,000-square-foot addition and a new entrance that required demolition of the Colonnade and its suite of offices overhead. The completion date for the project is August 2015.
Students will find the main stairwell between floors at the Reitz Union walled off and the offices of Student Government and Student Involvement relocated. Shaw said students can always go to the information desk inside the north entrance of the Reitz Union to find out where things are.
Another campus development benefitting students is a newly renovated Marston Science Library, a $5.7 million upgrade scheduled to reopen by the fall. The first-floor library will have enough space for nearly 700 students and will include a large seating area, a conference room, study group rooms and even space for a new Starbucks.
Students also will begin to see the renovation of Newell Hall into a study area.
To keep freshmen busy when they’re not in class, Creative B has a number of offerings. Creative B was started in 2010 as a way to entertain and educate students through a broad range of art, dance, film and other activities. This year’s featured artist is Xavier Cortada of Miami.
For example, the Florida Museum of Natural History has a werewolf-themed film series, starting with “The Wolfman” on July 11. It ties in with its featured exhibition, “From Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs.” UF students with a Gator1 card can see the exhibit for free each movie night.
The series includes a panel discussion on the balance between science and art.
On July 18, the Department of Student Affairs’ Multicultural and Diversity Affairs office is holding Gatormania. “It’s our signature event of the summer,” said LB Hannah, director of LGBT Affairs at UF. It’ll have a tabling fair and a show highlighting several cultural organizations at UF.
Gatormania was originally founded as “Salsamania” by the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures and has grown to include Student Government, Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, Student Activities and Involvement, the Reitz Union and Gator Nights.
A tabling fair will be held all next week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday to welcome new students and let them know about all of the upcoming summer events, Shaw said.
The Career Resource Center will host a part-time job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 14 in the Reitz Union Breezeway.
And on Aug. 24, the UF athletic department will team up with other groups for a pep rally in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Shaw said several thousand are expected to attend.
“We are fostering a sense of community, bringing them together and giving them a common experience and a common language,” Shaw said.
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