Build It On Up

I love CNU, and I love our beautiful campus buildings. However, I’m not a huge fan of the construction process that makes all those building possible. Ever since I arrived in the fall of 2012, CNU has been two things: gorgeous, and filled with construction.

As I head into my senior year, I’m looking forward to seeing Christopher Newport Hall completed so that my walkways from East Campus to main campus will be clear and dust-free once again. I also just can’t wait to have Newport Hall open! It’ll be awesome to have the offices back in the center of campus – so many times I’ve needed a copy of my transcript or to talk with housing about retaining my apartment and have forgotten where exactly their temporary office is. And, Newport Hall will be a sweet backdrop for graduation pictures and selfies on the Great Lawn; I’m always looking for a new photo-op!

Though construction may not be my favorite happening on campus, I can appreciate seeing all the progress made. Our campus has made great strides in just the past two-and-a-half years, and I know it will continue to thrive.

A Recipe for Success

One of my favorite things about being an upperclassman is living in housing (like CNU Village) with a full kitchen in my suite! Seriously, my freshman year diet consisted of dining hall food and canned tuna from my dorm room. Not much variety, if you ask me. Sophomore year I lived in Warwick River Hall and enjoyed having a communal kitchen at the end of my hall. But, there wasn’t room to leave many of my kitchen supplies in there, and it was a bit of a hassle to lug all my ingredients, a mixing bowl, wax paper, etc., to and from my suite.

Spotlight on junior year: I now live in an apartment style suite with a REAL kitchen (plus, my own bedroom and bathroom!). I’ve been able to make real dinners this year! Dishes that require a stove top or oven to cook are suddenly within reach; Taco Night in my room is always a big success.

CNU’s campus has felt more and more like a home-away-from-home each year I’ve studied here. And, now that I can wake up on a Saturday and make pancakes and bacon in the comfort of my room, I enjoy life as a Captain so much more.

Joining Alpha Psi Omega

This past weekend I had the privilege of being inducted into the national theater honor fraternity here at CNU, Alpha Psi Omega. It was a day filled with fun, laughter and trust as the new rush class became members. The weeks leading up to inductions were some of the most challenging, frustrating and wonderful times I’ve had. With 16 new artists formally known as pledges, or AFKAPs, the brotherhood had a lot to prepare for, and so did we. As a group we had to fundraise, create a skit, make a group paddle and make personal paddles for our bigs. With so much to do and so little time, we had to get to work – and fast!

Since I was in charge of fundraising, I had to come up with some ways to raise money for our rush class. I didn’t want us to do the traditional Chick-Fil-A fundraising event, so I tried to think of ways we could creatively raise money, which resulted in the AFKAPs having what we called a Drag Day. We started an event where if we raised $35 by the cut-off period, then certain members of our AFKAP group, who volunteered, would dress up in drag for the day and entertain everyone. The event was a success and the brothers all got a kick out of seeing some of the AFKAPs dressed in drag.

Then, because we were running out of time and were on spring break and had to do some serious fundraising, we decided to have a Chick-Fil-A event when we came back to school. We had a Save the Cows Day, where if you came to eat with us between 5-8 p.m. at Chick-Fil-A, not only would you be helping us raise money, but you could have potentially been helping save the cows in the process. It was a fun day filled with posters, chicken and raising money.

In preparation for inductions my fellow AFKAPs and I rehearsed our skit, which if you ever tried coordinating schedules with 16 different people, you would know is no easy task. All of our work paid off though, because the brothers really seemed to like our parody of “Into the Woods.” Our group paddle was a huge success and now we can say we are officially brothers of Alpha Psi Omega.

Saying “Thank You”

Each day, we as CNU students come in contact with so many people.

Students, roommates, friends, professors, dining hall staff, maintenance staff and custodial staff.

We often say hello to our friends and roommates, greet our professors upon entering, but do we really say “thank you” to those who look out for our safety, health, stomachs and campus?

The staff at CNU (including dining hall, maintenance and custodial) are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered.

They are always there early – before we are.

My Greek organization decided to write these staff members that usually go unnoticed thank-you notes. These notes are small and simple, but can make all the difference in how our CNU staff members perceive us. We should all show them that we are thankful for their hard work, long hours and exceptional attitudes.

This group of people has never failed to greet me with a smile, and they look after us!

They keep our buildings clean and safe. They keep our campus beautiful. They keep our bellies full.

Why wouldn’t we want to thank them?

Next time you’re walking around campus, challenge yourself to say hello and genuinely thank each of them for all they do for us students.

CNU is a special place, but it’s not just the campus that makes it special.

It’s the people.

I’ve Got Friends in High Places

In high school, I had friendships with several of my teachers; they knew me well enough to write recommendation letters for my college applications, nominate me for scholarships and mentor me in the classroom. Coming into college, I didn’t think I’d be able to find that same teacher/student relationship. Aren’t classes supposed to be bigger and professors more stand-offish and lofty in college? I was worried I’d never be more than simply a name on the roll sheet.

Thankfully, that has not been my experience here. Almost all of my classes have been about the same size (or smaller!) than the classes I took in high school. And, even in my larger classes, my professors still learned my name and face in just a couple weeks. In fact, sometimes on campus I run into professors from several semesters ago who still remember me!

Last month, I applied to CNU’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program. To finish my application, I needed to turn in two recommendation letters from educational professionals. Thanks to the teacher/student relationships I’ve been building here ever since freshman year, it was no trouble at all to have some of my favorite professors write a recommendation for me. The dedicated, authentic, personable faculty is one of my favorite things about Christopher Newport!

3,700 Feet

The ice-glazed trail stubbornly resisted the tread of my shoes as we continued to climb in elevation. Every step took concentration and planning before execution to avoid being thrown off balance by my heavy pack. I had wanted to get away from schedules and civilization over spring break, and the Blue Ridge Mountains seemed like just the place to do it. My roommate Tyler had come along, rather reluctantly, to accompany me on this adventure. Unfortunately, the route we had been planning for a longer hike had become inaccessible due to the recent snowstorms, but I was still determined to make the best of it. At least I knew we would be virtually alone in the mountains. Around midday, after two miles of an inhospitable, frozen, uphill climb, we reached the first peak of our short hike on the Appalachian Trail, Mary’s Rock. We took this opportunity to eat a few pieces of beef jerky we had stuffed in our packs as we gazed out toward the vast stretches of peaks and valleys making up Shenandoah National Park. Patches of white snow were scattered throughout as if trying in vain to cover every surface, but were spread too thin.

This beautiful view was short-lived, however, as we needed to continue slipping and sliding to cover more ground before finding a decent campsite for the night. After a slight descent from Mary’s Rock, we came across “Bird’s Nest #3.” These nests are small hut-type structures used by long distance through-hikers along the Appalachian Trail. We stopped in to investigate the primitive three-walled stone hut and found a red logbook on a shelf above the fireplace. Inside, we found short entries written by the hands of hikers who had entered the nest under many different circumstances. Some were escaping storms, while others were experiencing a final night under the quiet stars before heading back to their normal fast-paced lives. It wasn’t until we wrote an entry ourselves that we felt we could leave the hut and continue on the trail.

We followed the white markers up and up until we had reached our highest peak yet, the summit of The Pinnacle. Being on the summit of a mountain poses some problems when trying to find a flat place to set up camp. After a game of hide and seek with a somewhat level piece of ground however, we pitched our two-person tent. (The fact that it is a two-person tent will definitely be an important piece of information later on in the story.) So, with everything generally set up for the night, we climbed up on the massive pile of boulders to watch the sun’s final rays of light kiss Virginia goodnight. Then began the adventure of cooking by headlamp. Even in the well-lit conditions of our college apartment I’m pretty sure our oven gets about as much business as a blind barber. Luckily, Ramen and a can of beans were simple enough to cook and therefore were the only things on the menu. Unluckily, we had forgotten to bring along a can opener. I figured that’s what knives were for, so I went to work on the poor can with my larger than necessary fixed blade knife. By the time I could finally poor the contents of the can into our pot it looked like a 12-gauge shotgun had been unloaded on it. Dinner tasted great all the same and soon we were ready to turn in for the cold night. Remember when I said the two-person tent fact was important? Well, two average-size college guys squeezing into a two (one and a half) person tent in full winter clothes surrounded by all their gear makes for some pretty close quarters sleeping. We began to be grateful for the body heat, however, as frost began forming on the inner walls of the tent. We talked for a little, our voices muffled by layers of sleeping bag, until the tent fell silent. Outside I could hear unidentified sounds of animals scurrying about to collect the scraps we had dropped during our clumsy dinner. Suddenly, I felt a peace come over me. As I lay there at 3,700 feet I knew I had accomplished the seclusion I had come out to find.

I awoke to a strange noise coming from Tyler’s side of the tent. When I poked my head out to investigate, he greeted me with a funny, weird, but not uncharacteristic expression. I laughed and felt the cold air enter my lungs. Both of us knew we had to get up and break camp, but our sleeping bags were so warm and entrapping. Eventually, we fought through and ventured out back into the wild to get back before the storms came. The clouds already appeared dark and ominous overhead so our trek back down the mountain began early. The ice covering the trail, which had slightly melted the day before, had all been refrozen and was more treacherous. Even though I used a stick for balance, I fell several times – often being cushioned by my pack. I am positive I looked drunk descending that mountain, but we eventually slid our way back down to our waiting cars. Although our adventure was cut slightly short, I’ll never regret venturing out into the unknown.



Best of Both Worlds

Let me give it to you straight: it’s tough coming back from an awesome spring break (plus some snow days) and diving back into assignments, tests and projects. Also, knowing the semester’s end is rapidly approaching does not help my mind focus too well on the task at hand: finishing up junior year!

My break was one of the best yet during my time at CNU; some friends and I traveled to Philadelphia to serve with students from Pennsylvania on a week-long missions trip. We helped with some construction, worked with a drug rehabilitation center, met a lot of new friends, saw the Liberty Bell and (of course) ate a couple of cheese steaks!

But now, I’m back in the good old Newport News until our semester ends. I’m back to that 3,500 word English assignment due Thursday, the sociology group PowerPoint, and the geography quiz on the Canadian provinces. And, I’m also back to my wonderful roommates, my campus activities, trivia nights and the Mongolian grill at Regatta’s.

My time in Philly was eye-opening and so, so sweet. My home at CNU is welcoming and filled with people and classes I love. I’ve got the best of both worlds [imagine me humming the Hannah Montana song while skipping through the Great Lawn]!