The Talon staff sat down with Trent Dobbs, the freshman boy’s counselor and one of the heads of Freshman Experience, to discuss working in the Student Life office and how freshmen counselors help the newest group of Eagles every year.
What are your responsibilities as the freshman boy’s counselor?
“I work with the freshmen guys. We focus on three areas in Freshman Experience.
Obviously, academics. Making that transition from being in high school, being a high school senior, to being a freshman in college – some make that transition really well because their high school prepared them. I always tell the freshmen my high school did not do a great job preparing me for college. With that transition, some do really well, and some struggle. [We cover] how to write an essay, how to have time management, how to have some study skills, because in most cases, it’s the first time they’ve lived by themselves. They’ve got about a thousand distractions; it makes it a little harder for them to study. [We] just make sure they get off to a good start.
Socially, we treat the freshman class as a club, since they can’t rush until their sophomore year. We plan different events, trying to do fun stuff, being involved in Freshman Fanfare and making sure they know when Spring Sing is. Intramurals—if they’re super athletic, they can come out and play in a league. If they could care less about intramurals and just want to come out and meet some new people, we try to make sure they have that.
Spiritually, we get people connected. We know as students come in, they come from every walk of life. A lot of them may have grown up in the church. Some of them may have never been to church at all. We try to give opportunities through the freshman guys’ devos. Sometimes I’ll bring upperclassmen in just to share their thoughts: what they did their freshman year and what they wish they would have done differently.
Those three areas are really what we focus on with the freshman class when they come in.”
What prompted you to want to be a freshman boy’s counselor?
“I graduated in 2011, and my senior year here I was an RA down in Fails. I really enjoyed working with the freshman guys, especially just seeing them move in. Some are really timid, really shy, scared out of their mind because they’re coming to a new place. Just getting to know them and seeing them transform as young men and getting better in academics, finding their niche, finding some friends socially and connecting them spiritually. I always told them when they left, if they could just see the person they were at the beginning of the semester and when they ended, it’s like man, you’ve grown so much. You looked like a young guy when you first got here, and now you look like a man. That transition—I really enjoy doing that.
When I graduated, I moved to Red River, NM, and preached for a year at a small Church of Christ. I came back [to Oklahoma] and was the youth minister at our home church for about four and a half years. One of my friends was like, ‘Hey, the freshman counselor job is open at OC.’ I always wanted to come back here, because I really enjoyed being a student here and being on staff. I put in for it, and I’ve been here for about a year and a half, so this is my second year going into it.”
What does your day-to-day look like as a freshman counselor?
“It is always different, which I like. I don’t always know what I’m going to do that day. It may be checking on a student with academics; it may be checking on a student who has had a tough day, that mental health aspect of it. It may be getting to take a student out for lunch or coffee. It’s always changing, and it’s always different, which is nice. It kind of mixes up things. You never know what to expect. Some days are awesome, and some days are tough. I really just enjoy students being able to come into the Student Life office and getting to talk with them, try to help them out as much as I can, especially with academics.”
How do you hope to make an impact on students’ success with your job?
“We have the term ‘OC is Home,’ and I really want them to feel that OC is their home. Some students come here, and they hit the ground running, and that motto fits them really well. We also have students who come that have a hard time getting connected, finding that friend group or finding a place on campus they can get involved in. [We] may give them opportunities like, ‘Hey, SGA—here are the different committees. This is Outreach. This is U!Shine or Intramurals.’ You know, helping them find their niche on campus so that it is a place they want to be.
The academic part of it—coming in, a lot of freshmen don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I’m 30, and I still don’t know what I want to be. Maybe helping them find what they want to do for the rest of their life, because that’s a tough question when you’re 17, 18 years old. Also growing spiritually, like I said. Students come here, some students may have grown up in the church, some students may have not. Being able to help plant that seed and nourish that. I hope they want to come back for their sophomore, junior and senior year and stay here, graduate and get their degree from here.”
What is your favorite part about working in the Student Life office?
“Man, it’s a great office. You’ve got Neil in there. You’ve got Gary. Gary’s a prankster. It’s just a great team effort. That’s what I really enjoy about it. I’m a freshman counselor, I work on Freshman Experience, but we also have the dean of students, the assistant dean of students and our Freshman Experience team. When things come up in the office, like Earn Your Wings, it’s all hands on deck, it’s not just Freshman Experience. Same thing for club night, we help out with club night. It’s a team effort, which I really enjoy. I’m a big team player. I like doing those things. It’s fun. You never know what you might do.”
What’s the hardest part of your responsibilities as a freshman counselor and as part of Freshman Experience?
“Having those tough talks. It may be a guy’s not going to class, it may be academics, it may be behavior-related. Those aren’t always the most enjoyable conversations, but they’re needed. Also, realizing that things happen and mistakes are made, but this isn’t the end of the world just because you got a bad grade on your test. Sometimes those are tough decisions and conversations to have, but also [you get to] put a reverse on it.”
How do you try to increase freshmen involvement on campus?
“We plan different things, and that’s always constantly on our mind. I’m a sports person, and I like sports. But not everybody loves sports, so trying to keep that in mind. I always try to think of how to reach different groups. Just trying to keep an open mind to reach out to the students who may not be involved in sports or Spring Sing and give them options to get out and do different things.”
How do you utilize your past experiences as a freshman to plan events or handle other situations?
“I was a transfer here, but at one point I was a freshman. I went to a junior college before I came here, so I did Earn Your Wings as a transfer. [I think] what did I wish they did different there at the junior college, because it was totally different. We try to welcome students here. Earn Your Wings, I wished I had that as a freshman, because at the junior college I went to, the only people I knew were the people I went to high school with. Trying to think outside the box and asking ‘What would freshman Trent want to do?’”
What has impressed you about the freshman class this year?
“They’re a solid group. We’ve got some great officers that get involved. This class goes the extra step to do certain things. This freshman class has been great. We oversee it, but if we give them what they’re supposed to do, they take care of it. Our social service directors plan our freshman chapels; they do a great job with it. Same with our athletic directors, they take care of games and social media posts. As far as officers, they do a great job, and they want to get out, serve and do things. I also feel like this group does a good job at including everybody. They help plan our events, trying to include everybody.”
What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to an incoming freshman?
“Coming out of high school, I wish I would have worked on time management more. A lot of times, when I meet with guys who may have had a rough semester, they say they didn’t have to study in high school. Probably 90 percent of the guys I meet with didn’t have to study. Work on those time management skills, start using a planner. I work with a lot of guys just going over that. Start using a planner, start mapping out when you’re going to study, your test days, your projects, your papers, when you’re going to do fun stuff. Map out when you’re going to do them. That’s going to help with your study skills. If you write them down, you’re more likely to do them. That would be the one thing I would suggest to a high school senior. You’re going to use this in college, and you’re going to use this in life, too. Get used to doing that, because you will use it when you get older and have a job.”