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UMW freshmen get unforgettable start
Mother Nature provides UMW freshmen with an unforgettable first week.

 UMW students will get an extra day to move in Monday because of rough weather from Hurricane Irene.
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Date published: 8/27/2011


University of Mary Washington student Jeff Paddock said he hasn't felt many freshman jitters.

He's been too distracted.

First, there was the magnitude-5.8 earthquake on Tuesday, the day before he moved into his dorm. Paddock was home in Arlington County, and said his first thought was that there had been a terrorist attack.

Then a surprisingly strong late-afternoon thunderstorm Thursday knocked out power at UMW's Fredericksburg campus.

The timing couldn't have been worse.

Many of the 1,229 freshmen and transfers were on their way to the school's honor convocation at the Anderson Center. Paddock sought shelter at Simpson Library.

He said he talked about scary movies with students he could barely see in the dimly lit building. It turned out to be a good bonding experience.

"It was actually kind of cool," Paddock said. "It was annoying, but it was cool."

That seemed to be the consensus of several students who spoke with The Free Lance-Star yesterday.

In fact, transfer student Kaitlyn Williams said she wished the power had been off longer "to make us bond more."

Williams, a junior, said it started pouring just a couple of minutes after she left her dorm for the honor convocation. Emergency sirens blared and police officers told students to seek shelter.

Some students ran backward or behind other students to avoid flying mulch, a freshman said.

Back in her Willard Hall dorm, Williams said, her cellphone doubled as a light. A resident adviser eventually gave her a flashlight.

"It was so creepy," she said of the darkness.

The power went out at UMW about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, though several buildings at the southern end of campus were spared. Electricity was restored between 10:45 p.m. and midnight.

Students reported staying inside--in their dorms, the library or another campus facility--for about an hour during the storm.

Doug Searcy, UMW's vice president for student affairs, praised them for their patience.

"I think they understood what was going on and realized that safety is first," he said.

After the weather had calmed, students congregated at the Giant grocery store in Eagle Village, a short walk from the main campus.

"We were, like, halfway down an aisle in line," freshman Charlea Kimbelton recalled.

Her dorm, Russell Hall, had power but no cable TV or Internet connection. "We had to wait for 'Jersey Shore,'" freshman Nina Bowen said, referring to an MTV reality show.

The students will probably have more time to bond--or be bored--as Hurricane Irene sweeps through the Fredericksburg area this weekend.

The first day of class has been pushed from Monday to Tuesday because of the weather forecast. Returning students will move into their dorms Monday instead of tomorrow.

"We're just excited to not have to do anything," freshman Jesse Rzepka said.

Paddock's game plan is simple:

"Find a deck of cards, stock up on water and stay in my dorm. Or run around in the rain."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com

University of Mary Washington freshmen and transfers have had plenty of activities this week despite Mother Nature.

On Wednesday evening, the university had a barbecue that featured a flash mob. On Thursday, Brian C. Johnson, who travels to campuses to discuss diversity, talked with students about multiculturalism at Dodd Auditorium.

His presentations had a lot of energy and humor.

"Listen, white people, this is not the bash-white-people moment, so y'all relax," he said to laughter. "We ain't gonna blame all the white people, we ain't gonna blame all the men, we ain't gonna blame all the Christians and the heterosexuals."

Diversity, he said, doesn't just apply to racial minorities.

"Engage with the thought that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are diverse and welcome to the multicultural family," said Johnson, who received a standing ovation.

Here's a profile of this year's freshman class:

White: 764

American Indian/Alaska Native: 26

Asian: 79

Black: 69

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 5

International: 4