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It’s a Day of Firsts as Fall Classes Begin at Cal State Fullerton

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cars, cars everywhere.

They’re a sure sign that Cal State Fullerton is back in session.

On Thursday, commuter students streamed into parking lots, across lawns and into halls, inaugurating the 36th year of college life on the Fullerton campus. About 22,000 people are expected to attend the university this fall.

More than 105,000 students have graduated here since 1959, President Milton A. Gordon told the campus community during a convocation this week.

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Upperclassmen renewed the annual academic cycle Thursday, swarming from classrooms to lunchrooms and back--leaving a few frantic freshmen wondering where to go for their next math or English class. But student volunteers who sat behind fold-up tables were ready to point them.

“Where’s Biology 101?” a new student asked David Dutchen, 20, an orientation volunteer. Dutchen, who wore a button that read “Ask me anything,” leafed through a course schedule and pointed over his shoulder: “Over there, second floor.” The freshman, with a shiny pair of black in-line skates in his arms, gave Dutchen a quick “thanks.”

“People always ask us where University Hall is,” said Reushann Ison, Dutchen’s partner, indicating a recently constructed building behind her. “They’re kind of embarrassed when you tell them they’re standing right next to it.”

The volunteers said freshmen often wander about lost before picking up maps and handbooks at the three “survival booths” set up around campus. Sometimes the volunteers’ clientele isn’t limited to people new to college.

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“I had one guy come by who’s 42 and he’s been going to school here since 1972,” Dutchen said. “He’s basically a professional student.”

The first day of class initiated several other firsts: the first bike crashes of the year; the first pick-up lines in the quad; and the first gripes.

“I got a class at 8 in the morning; I think I’m gonna die,” one young woman moaned near the library.

Students Jordan Ruyle and Stu Slater began school by attending their first guitar class Thursday. Ruyle said he has made a few resolutions to start off the new academic year.

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“It means more to me than New Year’s Day,” said Ruyle, 23. “I’m doing all this new stuff--like exercising and going to guitar practice.”

Slater’s goals were more basic.

“There are lots of new people to meet that look very, um, interesting,” said Slater, 26, a graduate student. “Especially of the shorts-and-tank-tops variety.”

The campus’s Office of Student Life will offer new students several activities in the next two weeks, including workshops, tips for juggling classes, a reggae concert--and a “Velcro wall” at which students can hurl themselves and dangle.

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“This is our chance to be welcoming and do outreach,” said Kevin Colaner, assistant director for campus programs. “We know that many students coming here are the first in their family to come to college, and we want to do as much as we can to reduce their stress.”

Colaner said students can be overwhelmed by bureaucracy at the university.

“We’re trying to take the fear factor out of that,” he said.

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Next year, he hopes to involve alumni and Gordon’s office in orientation.

In his welcoming address Tuesday, Gordon said 33 more faculty members will be hired this year at a cost of $1.2 million to accommodate a growing student body.

Attracting new instructors to Cal State Fullerton has been hard in the past few years because of high housing prices, Gordon said. Because of that, the university is seeking to build housing for faculty and staff in Brea.

Cal State Fullerton Foundation officials are negotiating with landowners Santa Fe Energy Resources Inc., who plan to build 867 homes in an area called Olinda Heights. About 400 of those homes would be set aside for university staff and faculty in an area tentatively called University Summit. Another 250 may be offered to senior citizens through a university-sponsored program.

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“In spite of the fact that neither the economy nor Mother Nature has been very kind to California,” Gordon said, “and despite continuing diminishing state resources, I am optimistic about our future.”


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