What makes the OU experience YOUnique?

As you write your college essays and ask your teachers for college recommendations, you picture what your life will be like. You picture your classes, your new friend group and your living arrangements. Once you pick where you want to go to school you have this crazy idea of what it is going to be like. You watch college movies and dream of your first semester, but you really have no idea what is actually ahead of you.

So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge wisdom and love.” At Ohio University, this quote can be found on College Gate as you walk into College Green. This quote explains our college experience in one sentence. We grow with this university every day. Whether it is gaining knowledge through our classes, wisdom through our experiences or love through our relationships, we are growing every day. We are not the same people the first day of our freshman year as we are the last day of our senior year. Ohio University changes us, but is it really Ohio University that changes us or is it just the time period in our lives?

Every year a new group of students joins in to experience the madness, the wonder and the beauty that is Ohio University. However, what these students don’t know is that they are about to be taken on the wildest ride of their life. Just as the seasons change, every semester brings something new. But how does Ohio University change us? Is it just “the college experience” or is it something bigger than that?

Theresa Ianni, a strategic communication major and 2014 graduate of Ohio University, thought she was going to get involved, go to every football game and join a sorority when she went away to college. However, unlike many other OU students, Ianni was not in love with OU before coming here.

“It wasn’t my top choice, but it was the best choice since I got accepted to Scripps,” said Ianni. “I wanted to attend Ohio State University. I went to an all girls high school, so the idea of a Big Ten school (football games, tailgating, etc.) was really appealing. However, I was extremely excited to start college and stayed optimistic because I had tons of alumni and current students telling me how amazing OU actually is.”

As soon as Ianni started school at OU she fell in love with the campus and knew she was in the right place. She didn’t go to every football game and didn’t join a sorority, but she was right in her assumption that she would get involved. Coming to OU alone, she didn’t realize how easy it would be to make friends. Within her first quarter of attending OU, she knew that she was going to have a busy, eventful and exciting four years.

Since her freshman year she has grown immensely, both personally and professionally. “I remember being terrified to public speak freshman year of college, and now I’m presenting at companywide meetings and leading my superiors in different groups,” said Ianni. “Socially, I see myself adapting to situations easier than I used to be able to. I’ve grown fond of putting myself in situations where I don’t know anyone. Freshman year, I never went anywhere without a friend.”

You can now find Ianni working as a media relations specialist at Walker Sands in Chicago. She was hired in September 2014 after completing a post-grad internship with Walker Sands over the summer. The biggest change for her was “going out” during the week. “Weekends are the same. I don’t go out as much as I did on weekdays, but yeah I still have no money and no dignity at the end of the weekend.”

During Ianni’s four years at Ohio University OU did nothing but improve as a university, she said. “The website, marketing strategies, and even a bit of the vision evolved and I think that’s great. OU demonstrated throughout my four years that students were the priority,” said Ianni. “I don’t know if that changed over my four years, but it was very evident. Court Street was perfect all four years, but I definitely feel like it changed. More food establishments moved in and really showed that the college town has room to grow. The bars got both less and more classy but all in all it’s still the amazing street it always was.”

Mark Wilcox, a 1984 graduate of Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, said his time at OU bridged the years between his childhood and adulthood. “I discovered real academics, learned to interact with people from different backgrounds, made great friends learned how to manage time and during those four years grew into an adult.” Wilcox reminisced about his years at OU and said that he used to go jogging with the men in his fraternity (Delta Tau Delta) and they would end with Jeff Hill. Although he said he could never do this now, he thought it built character and really kept him in shape.

Some things that changed at OU were that Jeff Hall used to be a freshman all-girls dorm and that the drinking age was 18 when he was in school. Wilcox stated that the bars were crazy back then because everyone could be there legally. He has so many great memories, including Halloween, uptown bar parties at The Phase (now Pawpurrs) and CI, homecoming parades, football games, Stroud’s Run and hitting golf balls off the back porch of the Delt house (now the Athletes in Action house next to Alpha Gamma Delta) over Jeff Hall. Wilcox is now a retired Navy commander and currently an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton.

Mark Kuhar graduated from Ohio University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in creative writing. He is the editor of Rock Products and Cement Americas magazine. When asked how his experience at OU shaped where he is now, Kuhar said, “At OU, I was exposed to wide variety of different people from all over the world, which was a far cry from the narrow demographic I grew up around in the rural Hinckley, Ohio, of the 1970s. I made it a point to get a well-rounded education, so every class I took offered me something new, something memorable and some experience I was able to tuck away for future reference. All of this has served me well in a career in business journalism that often requires critical thinking, open-mindedness and personal interaction with people from all walks of life.”

Without Ohio University, Nicole Spears thinks she would be a different person. “OU pushed me to be a more tolerant, more open-minded person while also helping me break out of my shell. I left knowing how to appreciate the little things in life, and learning how important it could be to cherish the daily happenings and ritual you grow accustomed to,” said Spears. “Academically, I learned the importance of a holistic approach and gained the confidence that my unique career path had to offer me.” Spears graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor of science in journalism and a major in strategic communication in 2014. She is currently working at Launch Squad in New York City as an account associate with tech startups and a Brit + Co. freelance editor.

Ianni agreed with Spears and said being a Bobcat makes you humble, yet proud, passionate and determined. She thinks part of this is due to the people she was surrounded by. “These people were unlike any other university. They motivated me to be the best I could be in all aspects. Whether it was PR, being on the executive board of organizations, or even drinking!”

Ianni said that her biggest motivator was her boss at Ohio University Intramural Sports, Nick Brigati. “He always challenged me to think one step ahead of my plans, and helped me step out of my comfort zone with new opportunities,” said Ianni. “For example, he made me attend flag football’s officiating workshop. I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was terrifying. But the workshop taught me a lot about managing others and poise.”

“I feel like sometimes OU is so underrated as far as education goes, and that’s not fair. I know people who have done amazing things, and I know I got a great education. It’s all about what you make of it,” said Ianni. “I want to say that coming back for homecoming this year, it felt like nothing changed. I still felt at home, and I think I was will at OU. That’s the magic of Athens.”

Even though Ohio University may be changing physically and culturally, it is all about what you make it. The magic of Athens is the people and the experiences you have. No other school has the students Ohio University has and that is special. However, this is also what makes other universities unique too. To be honest your college experience at Ohio University won’t be that unique. Where you tell people you went to drink and the places that you went will be unique, but the overall experience of college isn’t. Every university’s purpose is to develop their students professionally and socially and to give them an excellent education. While not every university student may be as passionate about their school as Ohio University students are, we all have the same experiences. By making Ohio University your hOUme, you allow yourself to be opened up to new experiences and to let yourself change. Finding the person that will be your mentor and finding your group of friends is important no matter where you go. Cherish your experiences and remember that OU is unique for its location, its students and its specific memories.

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Marisa FioreMarisa Fiore is a junior majoring in strategic communication with a focus in public relations, minoring in business administration and is obtaining a global leadership certificate and a social media certificate at Ohio University. Her passions include travel, competitive Irish dance and writing. Visit www.marisafiore.com or follow her on Twitter @MarisaFiore1 to connect with Marisa.

Looking back at the Class of ’14

When we begin college we are usually between the ages of 17 and 18. During our four to five (or more) years at Ohio University, we change. We grow up and learn how to be a person in the real world. I took on the task of showing how people change physically over their four years at Ohio University. All of the following are recent 2014 graduates of Ohio University.

Arielle Busch

Arielle Busch
Majors: video production and interactive design, Currently: digital media director at Keystone Science School – Denver

Ava Miller

Ava Miller
Major: Dance, Currently: Teach for America – Summerville, South Carolina

Colin Pacelli

Major: Strategic Communication - Advertising, Currently: Research Assistant at Vizeum - New York, New York
Major: strategic communication – advertising, Currently: research assistant at Vizeum – New York City

Nicole Spears

Major: Strategic Communication - Public Relations, Currently: Account Associate at LaunchSquad
Major: strategic communication – public relations, Currently: account associate at LaunchSquad – New York City

Theresa Ianni  

Major: Strategic Communication - Public Relations, Currently: Walker Sands - Chicago, Illinois
Major: strategic communication – public relations, Currently: Walker Sands – Chicago

For love of our bricks …

We have raced down them on our way to class. We have tripped on them in the four-inch heals we never should have worn out on a Saturday night. We have stood in line on them waiting for GoodFella’s pizza, and we have gone hunting on them for the best Halloween costume each year. They have seen our reunions, our goodbyes, 21st birthdays, impromptu fests, and lots of ugly Christmas sweaters.

The bricks of Court Street are our home for our four years at Ohio University. We build the foundation of our adult lives on the bricks of our favorite college street.

But what happens after graduation day?

Why do Bobcat alumni spread their Court Street tales like old family stories, near and dear, to their new friends?

People can tell you hundreds of stories and give you thousands of reasons, but the feeling is almost unexplainable. The reason we love Court Street almost goes beyond words.

First memories

“My sister decided to give me a tour of the campus the summer before I started school that year. She showed me every brick and every corner that Athens had to offer.” —Alex Blanchard, education, Class of 2015

Blanchard and his sister stepped into Pigskin, where she told him all about her 21st birthday on Court Street. “The one thing that struck me about her story was the pure excitement about that evening,” he says. “Not the excitement over finally being able to drink (legally), but the details of how complete strangers celebrated with her. This idea of a community within the school is what inspired me to come here.”

Our first memories, while they might not stand out, stick with us.

 The businesses

“If we didn’t meet in someone’s room, it was at one of the businesses. All were close by, all catered to the students and the students respected them for it.” —Jeff Brediger, mechanical engineering, Class of 1981

Brediger was amazed at all the bars and eating places and realized soon after arriving in Athens that Court Street was the central gathering place in town. It was the perfect spot to get together, filled with a variety of establishments that were centered around the students.

“You could go up and down Court Street easily and see so much without really going far,” said Michelle Igelhart, community nutrition and dietetics, Class of 1994

Today, 19 bars sit within a mile radius of Court Street, not to mention a variety of restaurants, thrift shops buried with hidden treasures, local boutiques, and our favorite bookstores for essential Bobcat apparel.

“(Court Street) impacted how I lived, what I bought, and who I saw. It made college a fun place to be,” said Edie Dale, civil engineering, Class of 1995

The Bagel Buggy evolved into Burrito Buggy and now students shop for school supplies at the College Bookstore instead of Woolworth’s. O’Hooleys turned into Jackie O’s and big name franchises like Cold Stone Creamery turned into small-town favorite Fluff Bakery. Even though it has changed over time, the businesses on Court Street have been an essential part of the Uptown experience for every Bobcat and are often the most memorable part.

 The people

“The biggest part of being an alumna is I can come back whenever, but it’s not the same without the people and places you made the memories with. Court Street in general is a place where we have an emotional connection because it’s so special.” —Stephanie Caesar, public relations, Class of 2013

 It was a cold winter’s night and fresh powdery snow blanketed Court Street, Blanchard recalls. Students dressed in holiday apparel and shuffled between the bars on Court Street, celebrating their last night of freedom before finals and the students’ newest fest, Santa Fest. Everyone was in great spirits and the bars were alive with Christmas music.

“A large portion of my friends would go on to graduate that winter so this was the last time we were all together, and it truly was a memory I will never forget” Blanchard says.

The people make Court Street. It’s the feel good, no worry attitude that filled the street on the weekends, and the work hard and dream big ambitions we held ourselves to throughout the week. We worked hard to play hard, and it was the people around us who made all of the hard work worth it.

Weekend rituals

“There was always the Thursday night Lucky’s gang. It was my group of friends that I hung out with all of the time. It was understood that we would get that same booth, in the same bar, with the same people, every Thursday. It was the only thing we ever really needed.” –Danny Sudetic, business, Class of 2014

Liquor pitchers on Wednesday, all night study sessions at Donkey, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” at closing time, a favorite booth in the Pub, or a slice of pizza on Slice Night at Courtside —our week-to-week routines were the same.

Our nights on Court Street were often spent with the same people in the places. Some might argue we found ourselves caught up in the midst of normality, but we’d argue back that these were some of the best times of our lives.

“All we ever needed were good friends, good food, and good times,” Sudetic said.

 Living life on our own terms

“We were somewhere that is not only beautiful but also somewhere we were comfortable and happy to be because you know people who truly mean something to you are there and you are doing things on your own terms and going after your dreams in college. Its the epicenter of campus that holds true the character of Ohio University.” – Stephanie Caesar

 When we came to Athens as a freshman, it was the first time in our lives that we were free from the confines of our parents. No more curfews, rules, or disappointed looks when we came home an hour late. Court Street was freedom. We were free to stay out, go out, and hang out with whomever. We decided whom our families away from our families would be made up of.

 It was the breath of fresh air that we had never had before and following graduation would never truly have again. Our only worries were class and, for some, work. We lived life the way we wanted to live it, not worried about anything else besides having a good time.

What we tell others

“People who wouldn’t have a connection to Court Street haven’t experienced it. It’s always upbeat. Epicenter of amazing.” –Stephanie Caesar

 As many students and alumni already know, trying to explain Court Street to others without breaking out in pure joy is close to impossible. It is also something that can be hard to understand to those we tell about it.

“You don’t hear stories like ours at other colleges and universities,” said Ron Smith,  organizational communication, Class of 1997. “Other schools talk about how proud OU alumni are … as we should be!”

 Our pride in our school goes beyond campus. We not only take pride in being Bobcats, but we are also proud of supporting the community on Court Street and sharing the stories about them wherever we go.

It’s timeless

“This answer (to why Court Street is so special) lies in what we call the ‘Magic of Athens.’ Court Street adds to the small, college-town feel. The bricks, the old history of the buildings and all the locally owned business make Court Street an OU experience.” – Ron Smith

 The buildings look like a replica of Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life. The majestic Athena time warps you back to the 1950s as buildings line streets that were built back to the late 1800s. But not only does Court Street seem physically timeless, the spirit has never changed.

Court Street is our common ground. I know when I come back that is where I’ll find everyone and it feels like it hasn’t changed,” said Sudetic.

We valued traditions and worked to uphold them. Things we might not have understood as freshmen became a part of us by the time we graduated. We might have thought back then that the seniors were strange for being so sad about leaving but now we know the feeling.

“I enjoy every chance I can to walk down the street again and remember a lot of good times,” Brediger said.

It’s home

“When I come back and I am driving across route 50, I always come in the back way so I see the river (which was re-routed) and South Green. It is like someone is waving a magic wand. I am transported!” –Denise Gibbons, fashion merchandising, Class of 1978

Our connection with Court Street is classic and timeless. We can leave for years but the second we step foot on the corner of Union and Court Street it almost feels as if we never left.

 “I love hearing my name called out and turning to see an old friend that just pulled in. It means I’m home,” said Dale.

 While we may have left Athens for years and businesses and establishments have changed, there are moments on Court Street that can take you back 10 years like nothing has changed. That’s Dale’s favorite part of returning as an alumna. Today, she enjoys returning for homecoming and the excitement of returning to the bricks she still considers home for her.

 The Future

“Now that I have a child, (what it means to be an alumnus is) introducing her to the magic of Athens in hopes that it will catch on.” –Ron Smith

 We joke with our friends that our children will have no choice but to attend OU someday, when really we pray that they do. We don’t except them to have the same experiences as we had necessarily. But truly, we wish them all of the joy and happiness in their college lives as we had because we know that there is no better place than the bricks of Court Street.

Trying to grasp our love for Court Street is like trying to catch air in your hands. It’s impossible. The outside world might not understand it, but we do, and we know that there is nothing like it. We valued our college years because we always knew how time would fly and that our days on the bricks would be limited. We were sentimental, knowing that each drink during that last semester as seniors was strong yet bittersweet. It’s a love that is pure and filled with all-intensive good. It’s the best kind of love that is unexplainable, and maybe that’s the way it should just be explained.

Tell us your story

Bobcats love to talk about OU. If you have a story or recollection, post it below in the comments …

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Sarah Kenney is a senior at Ohio University pursuing two undergraduate degrees in journalism and video production. She is a  coffee loving travel enthusiast and adventure seeker who enjoys classic films, skiing, good laughs, football games on Sunday afternoons, and time at home with her two dogs, Marley and Mia. She aspires to someday write for a comedy or drama television series or work in travel media or visual branding.