By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Tiana Greer and her mother Twona shared the same emotions Wednesday afternoon as they carefully unloaded a couple of vehicles parked near Mantor Hall on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
They were both excited and nervous.
“I’m excited for her to go from high school to college and just get out in the world and have that experience,” Twona said. “But as a parent, you’re nervous because you’re kind of letting go of your child a little bit.”
Greer, the oldest of four siblings and the first to enroll in college, made the decision to move 2 1/2 hours from her hometown of Omaha to attend UNK and pursue her passion for graphic design.
“I heard the graphic design program is the best here out of all the University of Nebraska campuses,” she said. “That’s what drew me here.”
The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship recipient knows being away from her family will be tough at times, but she’s looking forward to life in a new city and the opportunity to branch out and meet new people.
About 100 yards away, UNK freshman Marissa Baker and her parents were sharing the same experience.
Baker, a biology major and pre-health student from St. Paul, was moving into her room in Men’s Hall, which houses students accepted into UNK’s Honors Program.
“I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit excited,” she said. “It’s nice to move to a city with so many opportunities. Being from a small town, that’s part of what I’m looking forward to – a bigger social group and more things to do. I think it will be fun.”
Her parents, Mike and Judi, were taking the transition quite well for a couple who were also sending a child to college for the first time.
“She’s so ready and so happy to be moving in,” Judi said. “That makes it easy.”
“We’re very fortunate because she’s so independent,” Mike added.
Baker picked UNK over other schools for a variety of reasons. Her campus visit was “amazing,” she said, and her follow-up research only strengthened that opinion.
“It just seemed right for me,” Baker said.
Her parents, both University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduates, agree.
“We like the smaller, homier atmosphere here,” Mike said.
Baker is also part of the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP), which provides full-tuition scholarships, academic support, professional development and guaranteed admission into the University of Nebraska Medical Center, assuming all requirements are met, for students from rural Nebraska who are pursuing degrees in a number of health care-related fields.
That means more hands-on classes and laboratory work for Baker, which is a good thing.
Baker, who met her roommate through New Student Enrollment, was welcomed to campus Wednesday by a group of upper-level KHOP students who volunteered to help new members with the move-in process.
“Being in the middle of campus, I’ll get to meet so many more people and it’ll be easy to get involved,” she said of her room in Men’s Hall. “I’m excited about that.”
Roughly 1,600 students will live in UNK campus housing during the 2019-20 academic year, and they’re not all freshmen.
Phoebe Dunbar, a sophomore from Hastings, is one of the many returning students moving into residence halls this week.
After spending the summer working as a counselor at Lutheran Island Camp in Minnesota, she’s glad to be back at UNK.
“I’m excited for my classes this fall,” the wildlife biology major and Honors Program member said. “I’m looking forward to digging deeper into my major.”
Dunbar, who’s interested in herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, enjoys living on campus because it gives her more opportunities to connect with other students, whether they’re playing board games in the Men’s Hall basement, holding a group study session or singing along as she strums her guitar.
“You get to be a lot more involved when you live on campus,” she said. “It makes UNK feel like home.”
‘Magical’ day at UNK
Although many students who participate in living-learning communities, athletics and other extracurricular activities are already on campus, UNK’s official student move-in day is Friday.
George Holman, associate dean of student affairs and director of residence life at UNK, calls it a “magical” day on campus.
“If you ask faculty and staff on campus, a lot of them would say Friday is their favorite day of the year,” Holman said. “The energy on campus can’t be matched at any other time.
“You’ll see parents who’ve worked the last 18 or 19 years to get their child to this day cry, not because they’re sad, but because they’re proud of what their child has become, and they know they’re ready for what UNK will provide. Some students will meet their best man, maid of honor or maybe even their spouse – they just don’t know it yet. It’s a day of firsts you never get to experience again.”
After a weekend to settle in, fall classes begin Monday at UNK.