Freshmen from across the state share excitement to begin their IU journey

The start of a new academic year always brings with it excitement. But between the eclipse, Welcome Week activities and the addition of new Hoosiers across the state, it was a special week for Indiana University.

Meet eight freshmen students and learn why they chose IU to be their home.

Olivia Kalish, IU Bloomington

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University Bloomington freshman Olivia Kalish. Photo by James Brosher, IU Communications

Even though School of Art, Architecture and Design freshman Olivia Kalish has only called the state of Indiana home for two years, she said she feels like a member of the Hoosier family after spending a few short weeks at IU Bloomington.

Kalish, whose family has lived in Alaska, California, Colorado and Scotland before landing in Madison, Indiana, said the welcoming feel of IU ultimately led her to choose it as her home for the next four years. The studio art major applied and was accepted to art schools across the country, but as she started to visit these schools she said something was missing.

"A lot of the schools I was looking at were city schools, and I found out they were not for me," Kalish said. "I love the city, but something just didn't feel right. I was much more impressed with the facilities at IU, and there's definitely a loving and open community here that is hard to find anywhere else."

After spending several weeks here, first as a student in the summer program Intensive Freshman Seminar and now as a full-time freshman, Kalish said she's confident she's made the right choice. She can't wait to get involved in the Arts Council and Sustainable Food Committee at her Living Learning Center, Collins, and is eager to push herself out of her comfort zone academically and through art.

"Up to this point, I've pretty much focused on what I wanted to focus on artistically, so I haven't really explored a broad range of media," she said. "I'm so excited to push myself and grow not only as an artist but as a person too."

Mikayla Shawver, IUPUI

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis freshman Mikayla Shawver. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Indiana University-Purdue University Inidanapolis freshman Mikayla Shawver is no stranger to hard work. As a competitive speed skater, she had to balance high school with a six-day-a-week training schedule -- the same schedule that helped her claim the national title for novice skaters and come in third overall at the national championships in July.

The East Allen University High School graduate, who earned an associate degree from Vincennes University before graduating high school, now plans to take on a rigorous course load at IUPUI and finish her bachelor's degree in just two years. She is majoring in biology on the pre-med track and plans to continue her studies to become a dermatologist. She said the lessons she's learned from speed skating will help her achieve her academic goals.

"Speed skating has really taught me what it means to be determined," Shawver said. "When it comes to training, I can't just say 'Oh I don't feel like doing it today,' and I think that will translate into my school work."

Outside the classroom, Shawver plans to continue training and hopes to try out next summer for the team that would represent the United States in the speed skating world championships at the Pan American Games. She may even try to start an intramural speed skating club at IUPUI.

Wherever speed skating and her studies at IUPUI take her, Shawver said she's excited to embark on this new chapter of her life.

"Being on a team has helped me be more open with people, and I know that will make it easier to find friends in college," she said. "I'm just really excited to meet new people and get involved."

Angely Luna, IU East

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University East freshman Angely Luna. Photo courtesy of IU East

Incoming freshman Angely Luna, the first student-athlete from Puerto Rico to sign with IU East's brand-new women's soccer program, said campus already feels like home.

"From the first day I talked with everyone at IU East, they were fantastic and we just clicked," she said. "It's a drastic change to move from Puerto Rico to Indiana but, even though it's a very big shift, I've felt at home. Everyone has been very good to me, and the people here are so nice."

In particular, she said, IU East women's head soccer coach Shane Meridith has been a huge support.

"He's like a family member to me and takes care of every single member of our team," she said. "Since I met him, I knew I wanted to be part of the program and this university."

Luna, who is majoring in communication studies, said she began playing at age 8 after her doctor recommended soccer as a way to help her concentrate due to attention deficit disorder.

"And I just loved it," she said. "Soccer, in a way, is a lot like school. If you want to get better, you get better. That's what I say to myself every day: 'Every day is a chance to get better. And if you want it, you do it.'"

Fast forward a decade. Luna is now a member of both Puerto Rico's U-20 national team and the Challengers SC San Juan club team. She's also practiced with the adult national team and has her eyes set on her next goal: to be a member of Puerto Rico's Olympics team.

And she has some words of advice for her fellow freshmen: "When I started playing soccer, I wasn't the best on the team. Honestly, I was a benchwarmer. It was hard for me in the beginning. But the thing is that, like many of the big players, I never gave up and I always tried my best. My goals were to be on the Puerto Rican national team and study in the United States, and I've finally reached that."

Brynna Troutman, IU Kokomo

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University Kokomo freshman Brynna Troutman. Photo by Alisha Referda, IU Kokomo

After witnessing her two older sisters' experiences at IU Kokomo, Brynna Troutman quickly realized she wanted to call the campus her home, too.

The freshman from Lapel, Indiana, was drawn to IU Kokomo's varied program options, its small campus and the ability to interact one on one with professors.

Troutman is interested in how psychology and business can interact and is pursing industrial organizational psychology as a career. She plans to major in psychology with a business minor.

However, she has always had a passion for art. Troutman hopes to find a student organization or club that will allow her to pursue this interest on the side, but she also realizes her career choice could change as she starts to discover more about herself.

"There are many great programs here, and while I'm enjoying what I am doing now, I know my interests can change," she said. "Here, I know I have many options if I decide to do something different."

And she has her older sisters, a sophomore and a senior, on campus to help her navigate the new territory. She enjoys passing by them on campus and getting their advice on which courses she should take.

But Troutman is looking forward to forging her own path and enjoying her own experiences on campus.

"I want to do the best that I can do, make connections and enjoy a great growing experience during my time at IU Kokomo," Troutman said.

Alaina Richter, IU Northwest

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University Northwest freshman Alaina Richter. Photo courtesy of IU Northwest

IU Northwest freshman Alaina Richter said that as a young girl, she and most of her friends dreamed of being teachers when they grew up. As years passed, many of her friends' career aspirations changed -- but not hers.

The Hobart High School graduate and this year's Herbert Presidential Scholar at IU Northwest said her dream of becoming a teacher has been strengthened by watching her mother achieve the same dream. Richter's mom went back to school at IU Northwest, earning her teaching certificate and piquing her daughter's interest in the school's education program.

Outside the classroom, Richter will also be a member of the IU Northwest women's basketball team. She said she's happy she can continue playing the sport that has given her confidence and leadership skills -- both tools that she will use in the classroom as an educator.

"I always knew I was going to IU Northwest, so being able to play basketball is an added bonus," Richter said. "Now I can get an education and continue to do what I love."

After graduation, Richter plans to find a teaching job in Northwest Indiana. She hopes to one day return to IU Northwest to earn a master's degree in education and administrative licenses. Mostly, she plans to make a difference in the lives of local children.

"I've grown up in Hobart and spent my whole life here," she said. "I can't wait to give back to the community that made me who I am."

Jose Cordova, IUPUC

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus freshman Jose Cordova. Photo courtesy of IUPUC

As the first member of his family to earn a high school diploma and now the first to attend college, Jose Cordova is passionate about education.

At Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, he hopes to take advantage of opportunities that his parents, who are originally from Mexico, didn't have access to.

"It will be an honor to finally see my family's last name on a diploma," Cordova said.

Even though his family moved from house to house and were often struggling to make ends meet, Cordova never lost focus on his academics. He took Advanced Placement courses, earned a Core 40 with Academic Honors Diploma and did all he could to make sure he was an above-average student.

And he has no plans to let that drive dwindle now that he has made it to the university level. In fact, he wants to take on more.

In addition to earning a degree in accounting, Cordova wants to graduate with leadership skills. By being a leader on campus, he hopes he can illustrate the importance of education and make an impact on his fellow students.

"I feel like many minority students feel like they aren't good enough or qualified enough for college," he said. "And I just want them to know that they can do it. They can work hard, get a degree and change their lives."

Shelby Perkins, IU South Bend

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University South Bend freshman Shelby Perkins. Photo courtesy of IU South Bend

After her first week at IU South Bend, new student Shelby Perkins breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm over being completely terrified," she said.

Her goal is to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She is living in River Crossing student housing and said it already feels like a "home away from home."

She was raised in South Bend and went to Clay High School. She picked IU South Bend for its social work program and has joined the honors program on campus.

"I'm interested in helping people," she said. "I want to make a difference."

Alex Miner, IU Southeast

The image caption followsView print quality image
Indiana University Southeast freshman Alex Miner. Photo courtesy of IU Southeast

The opportunity, community and support available at IU Southeast stood out to Alex Miner when he was applying to college. Since he arrived on campus, the feeling that he made the right decision is only growing.

"I saw a great opportunity to succeed here," Miner said. "Everyone I've met, including my professors, are so willing to help students like me."

The Austin, Indiana, native was drawn to the small-town aspect of the campus, saying it felt just like home.

Miner was a standout high school student, earning a spot in the top of his class and receiving an associate degree in conjunction with his high school diploma. To do so, he participated in the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative, which allows high school students to earn an Associate of General Studies degree through Ivy Tech Community College by taking dual-credit courses.

As a business finance major, he hopes to continue this momentum during his time at IU Southeast by taking advantage of office hours and study tables. Miner is also dedicated to soaking up as much knowledge as he can.

"I want to focus on getting to know the different avenues of business and the language used in the field," he said.

Following in his dad and grandfather's footsteps, Miner hopes to own his own business in the future.

Profiles were written by Bailey Briscoe, Marah Harbison and Bethany Nolan of IU Communications; and Ken Baierl of IU South Bend.