I think we’ve taken Evan to the University of Arkansas to visit somebody or other three times now.  The third time’s the charm.

We went yesterday to sort out some things that we’ve been wondering about.  You can do that via email but it’s certainly easier to get face to face with everybody; you can cover a lot of ground in a short time.  The university has been very forthcoming with financial incentives and we wanted to talk about other things like advising, dates for things, lodging and so on.  And the visit went fantastically.

I must say that the overall experience that a student has is quite different that it was thirty years ago when I was there.  Thirty years?  Geez, I can’t believe it was that long ago.  Pardon me while I go dust off some vacuum tubes and maybe rotate an antenna to get a TV signal.  But I believe that every thing that I had to complain about regarding any University of Arkansas program that I thought was half-baked at the time has been totally revamped and upgraded.

The “honors college” is now an organized thing with an office and a student lounge that serves up coffee and some other things.  Not only that but it’s decorated in the mission/prairie/art-crafts style (not sure which moniker applies) and looks really nice.  They are extremely helpful with not only what classes to take but who to talk to for more detailed info and just about anything else.  The college seems much more engaged with the student now that it was before.

We met with a professor in the chemistry department and I noticed much the same thing there.  My observation was always that all an adviser did was rubber stamp a signature on something that I had already filled out but he claimed that in his case, he looked over each student’s records and actually offered advice.  Plus he warned us that he would advise a student to change his major if he thought that was a good idea.  I don’t mind that so much; what I do mind is his enthusiasm for talking all his students into going to graduate school for a Ph.D.  That’s a obvious bias that he’s not objective about.

We had originally been going to do most of this ourselves but we had a huge small-world moment with one of the students that works with the honors advising group and he ended up taking us all over the place even to the extent of calling some of his buddies in a dorm and having them let us in and check out the room.  The U of A has an online room reservation system now that is apparently pretty new and Evan has managed to locate a roommate through it and also reserve a specific room so our guide even knocked on that door to let us see the inside but either the occupants were in class or moved out.  Still, we were able to talk to a lot of students who assured us that that was a choice room because it was a little bigger due to an architectural quirk.

Our small-world moment involved the fact that he was the child of the best friend of one of Mel’s roommates.  He was unable to get his mom on the phone in time and so we couldn’t link up with Mel’s roommate (who still lives in Fayetteville BTW) but I’m sure we’ll see her soon after this gets out.  Plus, the kid is in a frat-like church group that contains a large number of guys from our church and so it turns out we know a number of the same people.  This whole get-on-the-cellphone thing to arrange all this on the spur of the moment was pretty amazing in how it got us a lot more information about things.

Then Evan ran into the girlfriend of one of his buddies.  Our guide knew her as well.  She’s been to my house once before and spilled an entire pitcher of lemonade on my kitchen floor.  And she’s still embarrassed about it.

So Evan is much more excited about it than he was and we as parents feel very positive about it.  Most of our concerns have been reduced somewhat.  In fact, I’d like to go back and attend again myself.