VIP dining event celebrates freshmen in their second semester

Linda Stocum

Students gathered at Eastway on Wednesday to celebrate the achievement of surviving their first semester of college.

The VIP dining event has been a tradition on campus for the past eight years and has had the same goal every year — celebrating the freshmen who made it to their second semester.

It was created with the goal of increasing the amount of freshmen would stay past their first semester of college.

Richard Roldan, the director of dining services, said the event was designed to help freshmen know that the university appreciates their hard work.

“The whole purpose of this VIP event is to celebrate the first year students. We celebrate all the students, but specifically the first-year students who made it through the first semester and came back,” Roldan said. “If you’re going to drop out you’re going to drop out your first year. So for us, it’s ‘You made it through. Congratulations. Now let’s celebrate.'”

Eastway was filled with students celebrating their achievements and reflecting on different ways they stayed motivated through the first semester.

Jordan Bigelow, a freshman fashion design major, said her family kept her motivated throughout the semester.

“My mom staying on my back about stuff. Just like the work ethic that I have just translated over,” Bigelow said.

Imani Johnson, a freshman fashion design major, said friends helped her keep on track with her classes in the first semester.

“Staying focused and having friends that help me stay focused helped me,” Johnson said.

Hannah McClaskey, a freshman public health major, looked for her name on a list of names recognizing returning freshmen in attendance at the event. She said campus academic resources like SI tutoring helped her as well as building a support system on campus.

“Finding friends that will help me study and with homework. Stuff like that was very helpful. It got me through my classes,” she said.

Students also said they felt the campus helps freshmen feel comfortable and provides resources to ensure student success.

Chris Tutino, a freshman radiology major, said the learning environment of the university gives the freshmen the opportunities to keep up.

“It’s a very good learning environment with plenty of tools to get you to where you need to be,” Tutino said.

In 2009, the first year the freshmen were recognized for their achievement with a VIP event, the retention rate was 78.6 percent. For the 2015 school year, the rate of retention was 82.2 percent.

“It continues to grow and it continues to evolve. Every year gets bigger and better.” Roldan said.

He said the VIP event will continue to celebrate freshmen and recognize them for their achievements for years to come.

Linda Stocum is the room and board reporter, contact her at [email protected]