Moving in: Students arrive at Franklin College

The fleets of minivans and sport-utility vehicles packed with dorm-friendly bedding, stereos, computer equipment and other necessities will arrive on Franklin College’s campus this morning.

More than 270 students are arriving on campus today, with their parents in tow, ready to embark on their collegiate journey. They have come from within Johnson County, from throughout Indiana and as far away as Australia and China.

Over the coming weeks and months, the newest class of Franklin College students will adjust to campus living — managing their own schedules and studies, meeting new people and opening their minds to new perspectives.

For the staff waiting for them, the goal is to ensure that their experience is enriching, rewarding and substantial. They’ve taken care to make sure the transition is as seamless as college can be, and that the natural nervousness of such a monumental life change doesn’t hinder their success.

“It’s all about the spirit of the class — the incoming students’ enthusiasm and spirit, their anxiety about getting started,” said Ellis Hall, dean of students. “While starting college should be fun and exciting, we also recognize there is some anxiety there. You’re uncertain about exactly what’s going to happen, so we try to ease that concern and make them feel comfortable.”

College staff have been working throughout the summer to prepare campus for the arrivals.

Facilities crews installed new carpet, touched up painting and added new lighting in buildings such as Old Main, Elsey Hall and the Wells Suite in the Spurlock Center. The Custer Theatre and Johnson Center for Fine Arts floors were refinished, parking lots were resealed and new breaker panels installed.

To replace trees cut down in the spring due to an emerald ash borer infestation, crews planted 18 new trees on campus, said Tom Patz, the college’s director of facilities and energy management.

“These projects are finished now as we have August 1st as a goal each year to complete all of our summer projects,” he said in an email.

With the absolute necessity of technology, personal computers and wireless devices on campus, Franklin College’s information technology department has been working since students left in May to update and prepare for the coming year.

“We are somewhat hurried, but we know what must be done and have been striving to get things finished a week before the start day, which is next Monday,” said Larry Stoffel, director of information technology services. “Right now we are only working on a few minor last minute things so most of the pressure is off of us.”

Interactive projectors have been installed in two additional classrooms. Wireless access points have been added throughout campus, increasing Wi-Fi coverage.

One of the largest projects has been adding a new computer lab in Old Main. While serving a greater need for work stations on campus, the new lab will serve a fact-finding purpose as well, Stoffel said.

Whereas a standard lab has 30 personal computers set up for student use, this one will only have 15. An additional 15 spaces will be available for people to bring their own laptops in to use.

“This is an experiment to see how many people are using Franklin PCs in these types of labs versus how many are using their own PCs. We are calling this lab a hybrid, or mixed, lab,” Stoffel said.

Athletes and some other students have already arrived on campus. But a majority will be making their first appearance today.

And that’s when the real work starts, Hall said.

“Our goal for all of our new students is for them to graduate from Franklin College,” Hall said. “An important step in that is the first six weeks of the start of the semester. So we want them to have a positive start to the semester.”

College staff have assembled a rigorous yet fun schedule of orientation for the incoming class. Over the next four days, students will be thrust into campus life.

Residence hall meetings will allow students to meet their new neighbors and resident adviser. Group meals and parties will help them navigate the cafeteria while providing more chances to socialize.

“We want to help them experience new things, meet new people, engage with people who are different than they are and have a different perspective, because that’s how we learn,” Hall said.

FOCUS Day — a community service opportunity for all new students — will introduce them to the Franklin community and strengthen the bond between the college and city. President Thomas J. Minar will host the new students at his home the night before classes begin.

“We want them to have a connection to each other, and a connection to the institution, giving them some key things they need to know as they start classes Monday,” Hall said.

All first-year students will also have to take a specialized semester-long course, teaching about the philosophy of the college and how they fit into the overall mission.

Students also are provided mentors who can answer questions, provide guidance and share what makes the Franklin College experience exceptional, Hall said.

“On an ongoing basis, students are learning about expectations, learning about college and learning about what a liberal arts college is,” he said. “Plus, they can connect with an upperclass student who can be a guide for them.”

At a glance

A look at Franklin College’s incoming class:

Number in this year’s incoming class: 273

Number in last year’s class: 327

Where do they come from?

  • Indiana
  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin
  • Australia
  • China

What are they studying?

Top declared majors:

  • Biology
  • Business
  • Education
  • Exercise science
  • Journalism
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.