Five nights, sleeping outside in tents and competing in random competitions in the middle of a cold Pennsylvania November… punishment?? Nope, it’s something we call tenting. Tenting is honestly my favorite Juniata tradition, even though it results in zero to four hours of sleep for a week. The purpose for tenting is to determine the order that groups of students can buy tickets to Madrigal. Madrigal is a winter themed formal dinner and dance where the students are served dinner by the faculty. One of the traditions at Madrigal dinner is to sing Christmas carols as a student body, with most of the attention going to the singing of the “12 days of Christmas”. The 10 tables that are the closest to the stage and musical performing group are the tables that get to stand on their chairs and belt the “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS” line of the song. These are the most coveted tables at the dinner. Now, what’s the big deal of being able to do this? It doesn’t sound like that big of a thing. To quote my one friend who decided to try tenting this year and competed to get a Five Golden Rings table, after the dinner he said, “For three years I thought tenting was stupid and pointless, just to be rewarded with a table that gets to sing one line in a Christmas song. But the week of tenting and going to the Madrigal dinner and singing with everyone has been the most fun I’ve ever had at college.” During the dinner, the musical group that was performing said they had visited hundreds of schools and audiences around the nation, and they had never seen a school that loved each other and loved their school, as much as we did.
There are limited tables at the Madrigal dinner and each table is only allowed to seat six or eight students. Therefore, tenting was developed as the traditional way to determine which students got to buy their tickets first and thus, choose their table first. After all the groups that tented buy their tickets and choose their table, then the remaining tickets can be sold to the rest of the student body. But once the tenting groups get their tickets, there are not very many tables left for the rest of the students to buy.
Tenting takes place either one or two weeks before Thanksgiving break and starts with an air horn. And it can sound at any point on Sunday or Monday of that week and once it does, it is a race to see who can set up their tent the fastest. The first group to set up their tent completely is head tent, and they get to plan all the activities for the entire week and keep track of the order of all the tents. This year there were 30 tents competing. The fun part of tenting is that it takes place from 5pm until 8am, every day of the week. Every day there was a major competition, like a dance competition, scavenger hunt, rap battle, baking competition, cardboard box race, etc. On top of this major competition, there are also lots of little competitions mixed throughout, like stuffing marshmallows in your mouth, paper airplane races, or water balloon toss. But because they can happen at any time, we would be woken up from our tents in the 28 degree weather at 4am to do limbo in the cold, or make a house of cards in 30 minutes. There were over 50 challenges we competed in this week of tenting. It’s an exhausting week, but honestly so much fun to compete against other students with a group of your friends. While going to class the week of tenting, I find myself distracted, thinking about what we’re going to do for tenting that night. Every year I’ve done tenting, I’ve always come out having grown close to a lot of people in other groups, because we all share one thing in common… we all survived tenting week.
At Juniata College there are many different types of out of the classroom opportunities that students can take advantage of. A majority of the departments use a “hands-on” approach to learning, trying to give students real world experience before graduation. For example, students in the Accounting, Business, and Economics department just returned from a finance case competition at McDaniel College. In this competition, seven different colleges and universities were given a company’s financial information and students from each college were to present analysis and a recommendation if the company should invest in a particular international project.
While in a conference room at McDaniel, the case was treated like a real world experience. Teams were judged based on their relevance of analysis and content. In fact, the case that the students worked on actually happened in 2006 and one of the judges was a financial executive from the company highlighted in the case. After the presentations were over, the students were able to interact with the judges and students from other schools, providing a great networking opportunity for Juniata students. The departments were judged, in which Juniata placed third out of seven.
The opportunity was brought to them by the professors in business department. For a month the five students prepared a presentation and financial analysis and delivered their final product to ten judges on October 23.
Opportunities like this are available for students in many of the departments across campus. The professors at Juniata understand that real world experience as an undergraduate not only looks good on a transcript for graduate and Ph.D. programs, but is more beneficial than reading from any textbook. In my opinion, this adds a new dimension to the educational experience provided at Juniata College.
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This was the catchphrase for the 2013 Special Olympics that were held at Juniata this past weekend. Last year was my first year working with the Special Olympics and I honestly had so much fun, I could not wait for this year’s Special Olympics. These were the state-wide competitions between the best teams from Pennsylvania. Each team represents a county or borough within PA, and they all flock to Juniata College, one Sunday a year, to give it their best competing with others and, most of all, just having fun. The Special Olympics contain certain events that are a little different than the regular Olympics. The event list includes long distance running (5K), indoor volleyball, volleyball skills, soccer, and bocce ball. Juniata students were able to volunteer to help with everything from security, directing traffic, helping score and judge the events, providing lunch, and running the Olympic Village, where the athletes and their families could have their pictures taken, work on arts and crafts, as well as check up on other sports. The athletes ranged in age from 7 to 55.
This year I was able to help out with the volleyball competition. This involved shagging balls for a game, keeping score, and being a line judge for some games. The different levels of competition were decided based on a team’s overall ability to serve, react to the ball, and based on the overall level of motor capabilities. So the top division had two teams that were extremely good at volleyball (much better than me anyway) and the lower level would mostly focus on getting their serves in bounds. However, one thing was constant throughout all the levels; all the athletes demonstrated good sportsmanship. There were very heated moments in some of the upper level matches, but if anyone ever fell down or was hit with a ball, players from both sides would try to make sure they were ok.
One match I was helping with between the lower skill levels, had an older man named Bruce, who really seemed to struggle with his serve. He would get the first one in, but could never get the second one in. Instead of becoming frustrated by this (as anyone could have easily become) he would always shrug it off and say that it wasn’t a big deal, he would get another try later. His attitude on serving was so insightful and really made me think about the things that I consider to be a “big deal” in my life. There were many more examples of athletes and volunteers with positive attitudes throughout the day. The Special Olympics this year were truly a very humbling and exciting experience.
Over the past 2 years at Juniata, whether by design or by coincidence, I have frequently stumbled across different lists on various social media sites describing attributes of small liberal arts colleges. So many of them harp on small colleges because you know everyone on campus and professor hang out with students, but honestly, I see the pros of a smaller student body outweighing the cons. Having a smaller student population allows for the campus to build a much stronger community that trusts and respects each other. If I told you to leave your laptop and phone sitting in the middle of the quad and walk to go get a coffee at any campus with over 5,000 students, would you do it? Most likely not. What if I told you that you wouldn’t have to worry about people touching your stuff if you did this at Juniata? This is the type of trust and respect that Juniata’s students have for each other. Even our new President has taken notice of this with how the students leave their bags outside the cafeteria. It is much calmer and makes your college experience less stressful when you don’t have to worry about people stealing your stuff. This is just one reason I prefer the small college experience.
With a smaller student population indubitably comes several other benefits. One of which is the ease of access students have to faculty, staff and each other. Many professors at Juniata have an open door policy, where if they’re in their office with the door open, you are free to walk in and strike up a conversation. Being able to have this connection with your professors really is a luxury that increases the quality of your education. I have professors from freshman year that still remember the names of my siblings and pets! Even new President Troha is going out of his way to be accessible to the student body, as seen in Kunal’s blog entry on September 12th. If you want to meet with your academic advisor, department head or even the dean of students, they will usually be able to meet with you within 48 hours. The beauty of having a smaller school like Juniata is that we have so much more access to our professors and staff, and as a result, more of an input into our education. I personally view this ability to interact with Juniata staff at such a personal level one of the pros of having a small, more tight-knit Juniata community. This ease of access is something most people at Juniata take for granted, but is something that also makes Juniata one of the friendliest and most welcoming campuses on the East Coast.