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Welcome back Ole Miss students

BY STEVE STRICKER

Classes began for the Ole Miss fall 2015 semester on Monday, Aug. 24 — a beautiful sunny day here in Oxford (AKA Camelot).

Welcome home new and veteran Ole Miss Students — Go Rebels!

Obviously, this means that our placid summer has ended, lines will again stretch out the door in the Union coffee shop, traffic is going to become more congested, parking less available — but this is our Oxford, our students, our awesome beloved University of Mississippi!

Of the major honors in my life (along with working on our lovely campus in various positions for 15 years) was completing my Ph.D., in counseling at Ole Miss, being hooded by my hero, Chancellor Robert Khayat, on my birthday (Saturday, May 10, 1997) with my entire family present, and as president of the Graduate Student Council (which I had to resurrect by blood, sweat and tears), delivered a speech at the commencement…Gulp!

The path from my Ph.D., back to high school, was a long bumpy one. Some of the credit for my four degrees (BS, MAT, MA, and Ph.D.) is attributable to my three older sisters who regularly informed me as we were growing up that I was, uh, stupid! Perhaps to prove them wrong, I challenged my questionable intelligence, lack of confidence, introvertedness, persevered and kept racking up degrees.

To this day, it is far easier for me to synchronize the twin carburetors and choke linkages on my 1971 MGB/GT than my brain and mouth because the words are in my head, but I never learned to effectively decode them into appropriate verbiage without considerable pre-thought.

The Ursuline nuns who were the teachers in our small Catholic high school receive credit for my diploma as early on they recognized the wee glow of intellect lurking beneath my surface and encouraged me, especially Sister Wilma, who made certain that as a senior my application for college was complete. But to be fair, my dad’s health was not good and two weeks before my freshman year in college, he died.

Being a very lost freshman, resisting friends, never dating the same girl for long so I wouldn’t get hurt again after losing my dad, being lonely, having no study habits, crappy grades, scared, miserable, introverted and insecure, I nearly flunked out. Much of the credit for finally completing my bachelor’s degree goes first to our Lord, to my wonderful mom “Gert,” special classmates and instructors, to the fraternity I pledged my junior year after finally making my grades, and dogged perseverance.

Because of the huge difficulties I had to overcome, especially that first year in college, freshmen have always been my favorite students because of their sometimes difficult metamorphosis from high school and home.

Freshman (all students), you’re OK — you can do this! There will be adjustments, but hang in there! Don’t make friends too fast; don’t get behind in class as you will become frustrated and miserable; don’t worry about a major now — it will change six times; don’t forget your morals taught you by your parents because you are going to experience a huge amount of freedom and choices and these choices, good/bad, “will” follow you.

Go to class; form study habits now; find a place and time to study; study for that first test now; read your notes and assigned chapters every day; persevere; accept who you are; get involved on campus; let your classmates help you; get to know your professors, academic adviser and career center professionals; eat properly and get rest; if you attended church at home, do so here; you are going to have ups and downs; realize your roommate might have been raised by wolves; we all have had our hearts broken at least 10 times — you will live; if you don’t get into a sorority or fraternity there is a reason — you will live; take responsibility for your behavior; seek help from the counseling center if things get tough; stay in constant touch with your family but don’t go home every weekend — Ole Miss is your family now, and never, ever, give up!

Above all, good luck! Hotty Toddy! Take time for you and have fun. Attending Ole Miss is one of the preeminent choices you will ever make and if you put the effort into it, these can be some of the best years of your life!

 

Steve Stricker received his Ph.D. in counselor education from Ole Miss. He can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.