Vanessa Hyde has a history of making life-changing decisions when they count.
The summer of her senior year of high school, she was “dead set” on attending York University, where her parents first met. A decision to tag along with a friend on her Take Flight visit to Oklahoma Christian University, however, led to Hyde changing colleges a month before her first class on the Oklahoma Christian campus.
The Hot Springs, AR native stepped into the role of Head of Freshman Experience earlier this year in July, less than a month before Earn Your Wings (EYW)—one of the largest events Freshman Experience hosts each year. While she said the transition was stressful, the rewards have already been countless, and she is looking forward to all that lies ahead of her in her new role.
Q: What all were you involved in during your time at Oklahoma Christian?
“I was at OC from 2009 to 2012 and graduated a year early. I was in Pi [Zeta Phi] and served as a rush director for them in 2011. I was the vice-present of AMA and was involved with Memorial Road [Church of Christ]. I met my future husband, Alan, at OC and we started dating sophomore year.”
Q: Why did you decide to remain on campus after you graduated from Oklahoma Christian?
“I actually didn’t. After I graduated, I took a job with a doctor’s office and worked there for a little while. Then, I was at Chesapeake Energy for a couple of years in their human resources department before coming back to OC in 2016. I started working in the housing department in June of 2016 and transitioned to this position in mid-July.”
Q: What initially drew you to the Head of Freshman Experience position?
“I came back to OC because I love the mission and I love being around college students. It is fun, encouraging and a great way to touch a lot of people’s lives. It lined up with my core values and what I wanted to do. I love freshmen and I want to help them succeed. I did not have a great freshman year, and I want to give them an experience I did not have.
My brother would have been a freshman here this year and I think with him not being here, I am able to pour that love and everything I wanted for him into this group of freshmen. It just felt like this was where I was meant to be and is where my heart is right now. It is such a fun and unique position, in that you are able to live life with the students. You are able to laugh, cry and create bonds that would be hard to form if you were not working on a college campus.”
Q: What has been the hardest part of the transition from Housing to Freshman Experience?
“Coming in so soon to Earn Your Wings was a lot because it is a big thing that needs to be done well and done right since it is students’ first impression of OC. Just making sure that I was meeting all of the deadlines—I definitely lost some sleep over that—because I was stressing over, ‘Okay, I have to do this right.’”
Q: What has been the best part of working with Freshman Experience so far?
“All the staff that helps with EYW, they just make it happen. I was blown away. One of the most fun parts for me was just getting to see God working through the staff. They are the ones who make EYW what it is meant to be, and that is just so impactful to me. These upperclassmen gave up their time for a whole week, were not getting paid and were working their rears off to come help these freshmen feel included, loved and just welcome them to the community. It is exciting for me that there is this passion and excitement for each other as a community because I think that is so important.”
Q: What do you want the freshman class to know about you and about Freshman Experience?
“Our mission statement is that we are here to help them succeed spiritually, mentally and academically, so anything involving those three things—I want them to feel like they can come talk to us. But, even if it is not about those things, if it is something financially, for example, any question they have we can help them or find someone who can. Information central is basically what you could call us. If they do not know how to do something, they can utilize us because we are here to help them.
I also do not want them to be intimidated of the office. I know if they do not know us super well it can be kind of intimidating to walk in and be like, ‘Hey, I’m just going to come sit in here for a while,’ but I hope they do. And, I want them to come to the events and get plugged in, for them to be able to make friends and feel comfortable here.”
Q: Why do you encourage upperclassmen to get connected with the freshmen class?
“Just think about the potential friendships that have yet to be made. Community is such a big thing and just reaching out to say hi—even if you are not best friends with the person—you could still make a difference in their day or even their life. You just do not know how God can use and develop that one interaction. It could lead to so many wonderful things. You could end up working together, starting a business together or they could even end up being your maid of honor in your wedding someday, but you never know if you do not try. As brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we are called to do.
Upperclassmen, make the freshmen feel welcome. Put yourself in their shoes and get to know them. You will be together for quite a few years and maybe even after you graduate because it really is so much more than just these four years of college. The friendships and connections you make here at OC will last well beyond your time here.”