As each summer comes to an end, one of the most exciting and eventful times at Morehead State University begins. Every year, thousands of students and their families make the journey to MSU to move-in to their home away from home for the academic year. Among those thousands of students, you’ll find many new students who are living on their own for the very first time.
One of those students is Donovan Ward, a physics and pre-engineering major from Staffordsville. We followed him during his first week on campus as an MSU Eagle to get a glimpse of what it was like for him and his family as he began his life as a full-time college student.
Donovan (left) pulled up to Cartmell Hall on a very hot August morning to move into his new home and was greeted by plenty of MSU student volunteers to help lighten the load. The 19-year-old freshman came to MSU as a Herron Scholarship recipient and plans do the 3:2 program, completing three years of coursework at MSU before transferring to the University of Kentucky that will earn him a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a bachelor’s degree in physics from MSU. Coming from a small town, he said felt like the size and atmosphere of Morehead State was “the best fit for his personality.”
Donovan admits he was a bit nervous living away from home for the first time. He was going to miss his family and his yellow Labrador named Jase. This would also be the first time he was living with roommates. Luckily, he managed to room with two friends from home and seemed to strike up a quick kinship with the third roommate from Winchester. After finding a place to set up the TV and video game console, he said he predicts there will be plenty of “Fortnite” tournaments in his room this fall.
Of all the members of Donovan’s family, his mother, Donna Ward (95), is simultaneously the most excited for him to start at MSU and the most saddened to see him leave home. But she feels good today, both because she admittedly cried most of her tears in the days leading up to move-in day and the fact that she is very familiar with the school as an alum who graduated with a degree in education. She likes the fact that he is not too far away. “I’m going to come to see him every weekend, whether he wants us to or not,” Donna said. “They didn’t tell me about that,” Donovan replied. Donovan mentioned he would be more likely to welcome a visit if his mom brought her peach cobbler.
After plenty of moving and grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, the family met in the lobby of Cartmell Hall to say their official goodbyes…some more reluctantly and hesitantly than others. His father, Bob, was less emotional than Donna but feels comfortable knowing that he is going to college at a safe campus. Mom and dad are also glad Donovan found a church, Morehead Church of Christ, within walking distance of campus. As for Donovan’s younger sister Dianna, 13, she was mainly happy and hopeful she would get to take over his bedroom.
His first full day on campus ended with Donovan and his freshman class participating in the New Student Days Induction Ceremony. It was one of several activities that took place during New Student Days (“The movie on the lawn kind of surprised me,” he said) that helped him have fun, make friends and feel like a part of the campus community. He got to touch base with his professors and advisors, made a few trips to Kroger and Walmart and got a surprise family visit the day before his first day of class. “They came back Sunday and took me out to lunch,” he said. “I wish they’d have told me. They just kind of showed up and I’m glad they came. Free Cracker Barrel, that was nice.” He said he was surprised to find out that his little sister was sadder than she expected to be without her big brother. “I didn’t know she liked me that much,” he said. “It was either that or them telling her that she couldn’t have my bedroom (that made her sad). I don’t know which one.”
Donovan joined some of his fellow freshmen for his First Year Seminar (FYS) course on the first official day of classes. When we checked in with Donovan this January, he was eating at Pasquale’s in downtown Morehead with his friends and was able to reflect on a successful fall semester. He made only one “B” in his chemistry class and started a co-ed intramural softball team with some friends from his high school (they took third place). He and his roommates also hosted more than a few “Super Smash Brothers” video game tournaments in his room. This spring semester, Donovan will be taking some harder classes, including his first college physics course and a business course in accounting, among others. He will also turn 20 and is excited to get involved in soccer intramurals when the weather warms up. He said his attitude has changed quite a bit since he pulled up with an SUV full of belongings back in August. “I’m definitely a whole lot more confident,” he said. “I was definitely intimidated my first semester but now, I know it’s not as bad as I was thinking, so I think this semester will go by a lot smoother.”