Freshmen get feel for ENMU at Dawg Days

Freedom New Mexico: Kevin Wilson Eastern New Mexico University senior Brian Campbell gives freshman nursing student Taryn Robertson Marissa Hyde a package of complimentary items Saturday afternoon at the college’s Dawg Days freshman orientation session. Robertson will be attending classes at ENMU and Clovis Community College.

Kevin Wilson

Amanda Straub wasn’t expecting the “Woo” when she approached the tent.

“A lot of people are screaming at me,” Straub, an education major from Albuquerque, said with a laugh, “but I didn’t do anything wrong.”

It certainly won’t be the last unexpected event for Straub, or for the hundreds of people who make up Eastern New Mexico University’s 2010-11 freshman class. And that’s the main reason Dawg Days is a tradition at ENMU.

“You don’t realize how helpful it is until afterwards,” said junior Bobby Pitts, one of numerous Dawg Days counselors stationed at Bernalillo Hall, one of the college’s many residence options. “The people you meet at Dawg Days, you’ll know them the rest of your stay at Eastern.”

The week-long event, which started for Straub and others with check-in, is the opening act in a four-day orientation for freshmen.

At the check-in tent, each freshman receives a welcoming “Woo” before getting material objects — a bag with a water bottle and pair of sunglasses, a coupon for 10 percent off school apparel at the university bookstore and a color-coordinated pass.

The passes are colored according to majors and colleges, and each has a schedule of events and a checklist. The checklist includes seven randomly-selected events where a card can be punched. A card with all seven punches is thrown in a drawing for an iPad at the conclusion of Dawg Days.

After a closing “Woo,” the freshman is sent to another tent, where other students wear ENMU shirts, either identifying them as an athlete or member of a Greek organization.

Sophomore Marissa Hyde was wearing a “Go Greek” T-shirt, but students don’t volunteer what sorority or fraternity so as not to create undue influence on a freshman who’s only been on campus a few minutes.

Hyde didn’t live in the residence halls as a freshman, but went through everything else about Dawg Days.

“Everything was new,” Hyde said as she waited for the next family to come with a mini refrigerator or duffel bag of clothing. “Everything was overwhelming at first, but I think that’s why they do Dawg Days — so it’s not nearly as overwhelming.”

What would normally be a short elevator ride or flight of stairs is slowed by congestion, but both eventually lead to a resident assistant like Ty Gonzales. Entering his fifth semester as an RA, Gonzales said the free room and small stipend are more than earned after a semester of freshmen.

“It’s going to be chaos,” Gonzales said with a smile. “Freshman have this idea of what college is supposed to be like. RAs are supposed to provide a reality check, so they know studying comes first and then they can have fun.

“This is the time when you get to discover yourself. No one’s here to push you or tell you what to do.”

Except maybe Gonzales. He has a goal to see every student from his seventh floor back for the 2011-12 fall semester.

Freshman fates are still up in the air, however. Straub is just looking forward to the ride.

“I’m psyched,” she said. “It’s just another adventure.”

Once settled in, students had an evening barbecue and a free movie. Other events throughout the session include comedian Chris Voth, an ice cream social and a campus-wide game of “Capture the Greyhound” — similar to capture the flag, but intended to acclimate students to the campus layout.