Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Xavier students, staff back to work

Freshman from Nicaragua pursues dreams 

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For most of the 800 freshmen at Xavier University, Tuesday was the first day of class. For eager and anxious newcomer Angela Su Luna, it was a homecoming of sorts.

        Angela, 17, grew up around Xavier professors and students. They frequently stayed at her mother's bed and breakfast in Managua, Nicaragua, during undergrad service-learning semesters.

        It seemed natural to follow them north after she graduated from a Franciscan high school there.

        “All of these people who have been coming to my house have been saying these great things about Xavier,” she said. She ran into Beth Baker, a 21-year-old Anderson Township senior who “lived two doors down” from the Luna home last semester.

        “I love her,” Miss Baker said, hugging Angela. “We were very excited. Yeah! Angela was going to be at Xavier.”

        Along with Ms. Luna and Miss Baker, some 4,000 undergrads marked their first day of class buying books, trying on ROTC uniforms, arranging dorm rooms and generally getting set. Though a few classes began Monday night, Tuesday was the day faculty and students thronged the bookstore, academic mall and Cintas Center cafeteria.

        Sophomore Ryan O'Connor was hefting two plastic bags filled with one semester's books across the Evanston campus. He and some friends discussed how expensive it is to buy this semester's books and then resell them, often for 15 cents on the dollar, when they're done.

        “I think it should be a rental price, because that's what you're doing,” Mr. O'Connor said. “I've got $500 in my hands. I'm the poster child for spending a lot of money.”

        In the cafeteria, uniformed members of XU's Army ROTC emptied plates of sausage, ham, omelettes and bagels. They were in good shape, having run or worked with weights during the summer, and their crisp camouflage uniforms fit without being snug.

        Would they have been so diligent if they weren't facing ROTC physical training when they returned to campus?

        “Probably not,” said Eric Wicktora, 19, a sophomore from Cleveland.

        “I like to think so, but probably not,” added junior Bill Mesaeh, 21, from Brazil, Ind.

        Nearby, three seniors on the women's volleyball team ate heartily but with fewer fried foods and more carbohydrates. Just as lean as the cadets, the women can eat the way they do because they also burn calories at a prodigious rate, said Amanda Lang, 21, of Delhi Township, a senior.

        Many of XU's freshmen came from Jesuit-run schools — St. Xavier in Springfield Township, St. Ignatius in Cleveland and St. John's in Toledo. Notable exceptions were Elder in Price Hill and McAuley in College Hill.

        Despite a heavy Ohio presence, Xavier's freshman came from 36 states and 11 countries.

        This year's new class is among the smartest in XU's history.

        Their average grade-point was 3.53 (A-minus), the highest on record at XU. Their average ACT score was 25.3, compared with the national 21. Similarly, the key SAT composite verbal average was 1,166, compared with the national 1,020.

        At least 19 freshmen ranked first in their high school graduating classes, and six were National Merit Scholars.

        Despite that accomplishment, XU sometimes is tagged as an easy school to get into because it enrolls 87 percent of the students who apply. That isn't selective enough for some popular best-of lists, said spokeswoman Kelly Leon.

        Nevertheless, Xavier's criteria provide the students XU wants, she said, especially given the school's growing emphasis on service learning off-campus and community involvement. XU provides something else key to what Angela Su Luna wants — a traditional Catholic education, she said.

        “They are not only preparing you for what is going to be in your head but in your heart.”

        The men said their uniforms draw some traditional anti-war, anti-military barbs, but classmates see them as too cliquish, Richard Klinker, 19, a sophomore from Ripley, Ohio, said.

        But that misapprehends ROTC, he continued. “It's more than a clique. It's a family.”


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