As the sun sets on summer, the winds begin to shift and leaves will soon descend from the trees as the fall semester gets underway.
Fall semester means one thing: a new class of bright-eyed, eager and not fully dead-inside freshmen.
Typically, this new cohort can be distinguished by their looks of awe, their apprehension and the aura of edginess they’ve quickly adopted from being away from their parents for more than a few days.
If you find yourself meeting some of these criteria, you may have a few questions rattling around in your mind about WKU. Such as, “Where’s the food?” or, “That person looks important, who is she?” and most likely, “What on earth is that red statue in the middle of campus?”
Well, worry not. I am qualified to answer at least two of those three questions. For your first semester on the Hill, or maybe even your sixth semester, here are some crucial people, places and things to know about WKU.
President Gary Ransdell
President Ransdell is WKU’s ninth president, and he’s been serving in that role since 1997. Cherish him while you can because at the end of next spring he’ll be gone. Ransdell can often be found walking around campus or eating in Fresh Food Company, so it’s not uncommon for students to run into him. You can tell it’s him from a certain pep in his step and that hypnotic southern drawl of his when he says, “Go Tops!”
Downing Student Union
DSU — or still affectionately called DUC, its previous name, by some — is the hub of student activity here on campus. And by a hub of student activity, I mean you can find food there. DSU is home to seven eateries including Chick-fil-A and Burrito Bowl, to name a few. Apart from food, you also have access to a 24-hour study room and a recreation room. However, be warned, if you’re still one of those trendy teens hovering around on campus on your hoverboard DSU is not having any of that tomfoolery.
WKU’s cherished mascot Big Red is the most visible creature on campus. Sometimes you’ll be on your way to class, and you’ll spot Big Red off in the distance just beeboppin’ his way through life. It can almost feel surreal seeing Big Red, especially if he gives into his cannibalistic tendencies and tries to eat your head. Big Red can best be described as the “Spirit of Western.” You can read up more on the history of Big Red here, courtesy of the WKU Archives.
Preston Health & Activities Center
From what I hear, this is a wonderful place. If you’re into the idea of motion and other things along those lines, this is the place for you. As for me, I would go, but in order to do that I would have to travel halfway to the Preston Center, then halfway from there and then halfway again, so I’d never actually get there (see: Zeno’s paradoxes).
Henry Hardin Cherry
Cherry was WKU’s first president and is immortalized as a statue in front of Cherry Hall, where he’s positioned pristinely at the top of the Hill, guarding his kingdom. If WKU was its own country, Cherry would be our George Washington. You can even take a peek at what WKU was like when Cherry was president from the Cherry Statue Time Capsule.
Mass Media & Technology Hall
You will soon come to find that Mass Media is one of your best friends. First and foremost, Mass Media is the go-to place for printing – unless, of course, you’re one of those kids who brought their own printer (kudos to you if so). It should come as no surprise that you’ll need to print readings, research materials and papers to turn in for your classes. Pro tip: if you’re in a rush and don’t have the time to log into a computer to print, you can send what you need to print online without logging into one of the university’s computers.
The stretch of the Hill starting at the edge of McLean Hall up to where Potter Hall starts
I’m naming this area very specifically because it’s the spot of the Hill that really, really gets to me. Maybe it wouldn’t if I went to point #4’s Preston Center more often, but I digress. No matter how many times I go up the Hill it’s always that part that makes me question coming to this university. Avoid it at all costs by using the elevators in Grise Hall or Music Hall.
I always consider Cravens and Helm to be the same place (because they practically are), but they’re also separate buildings, so it can get confusing at times. Cravens is the taller one, and Helm is its short friend. Both earn a spot on this list because they’re libraries. This is college, and while the Internet does exist, you should not forsake making use of the resources the library offers. Use it to study, get coffee, research or what have you, but the point is: utilize it. I still know too many people who have yet to even step foot in either Helm or Cravens.
Sitting ever-so-casually on a bench outside of the Kentucky Building is the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, so get over yourselves, Illinois. The statute and bench were unveiled in 2008 as a “space for visitors and students to sit for a moment to reflect on Kentucky history.” If you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear Lincoln softly whisper, “Tops on top” – or so I’ve been told.
The Kissing Bridge
Last fall, WKU was ranked the number one campus for falling in love. In fact, President Ransdell and his wife, Julie, met each other here on the Hill, and they’ve been going strong for more than 40 years. As for the Old Fort Bridge, more commonly known as the Kissing Bridge, legend has it that any couple that kisses on the bridge is destined to be married*. The origins of the legend seem to only apply to freshmen or first relationships, but such things change over the years. So if you’re here and looking for love, there’s a chance … I guess.
*Results will vary
Ah, yes, the joys of experiencing WKU through fresh eyes untainted by the pitfalls of academia. Truly, it is a thing to cherish. Welcome to the Hill, and make the most of your experience.