Being a newbie at college can be awkward enough, but imagine having that experience in front of a national audience. That’s the situation for Andy Wegg, a University of Indianapolis freshman from Winchester, Indiana, and for Robert Manuel, who is a different kind of “freshman” on the UIndy campus—the University’s new president. Both were happy to comply, however, when they were approached with a unique proposal from Joey Butler, editor of young adult content for United Methodist Communications, based in Nashville, Tennessee.
At the suggestion of the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Butler set out to write a series of reports for the United Methodist News Service throughout the 2012–13 academic year, detailing the ups and downs of a freshman student and a first-year president at a United Methodist-related university. [The University of Indianapolis has been church-affliated since its inception in 1902. It has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches merged.] With Manuel having just arrived in Indianapolis in July from Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University, where he served as associate provost and dean of the School of Continuing Studies, UIndy was an apt choice.
“Most of us know from experience what a big culture shock it is to be a freshman on a college campus, and I imagine it’s the same for a president learning the ropes at his first school,” Butler said in explaining the project. “I’m grateful to President Manuel for giving us a look behind the curtain, and to Andy Wegg for agreeing to be ‘stalked’ for a few months.”
Wegg, an energetic, outgoing type who served as drum major for Winchester High School’s award-winning marching band, said he didn’t mind the scrutiny.
“When I heard about the opportunity to be a part of this story, I jumped at the chance,” said Wegg, who is attending UIndy on a United Methodist Youth Leader Scholarship. “I had no idea what to expect, but I wanted to live by the wise words of Horace: Carpe diem.”
Butler, accompanied by UMNS photographer colleague Mike DuBose, first visited the UIndy campus in late August during the annual Welcome Week for new students. He plans to stay in touch with Wegg and Manuel as he posts a series of periodic updates that will be viewable most easily at www.umc.org. The stories and related materials also will be available for use by local UMC publications through UMNS. Manuel, the University’s ninth president, sees the project as an opportunity to reach an important audience with an inside perspective on the moments, large and small, that make up a rewarding year in higher education.
“I’m very happy to share our story with a United Methodist readership,” he said. “I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Andy, who is giving me a valuable window into a new student’s experience on campus.”
Wegg, who is plunging into campus life with both feet, expects to give Butler plenty to write about during an eventful first year at UIndy.
“When I found out I was accepted, I told UIndy on Facebook to prepare itself,” he said with a laugh.
The youngest of four children in a family that belongs to Winchester First United Methodist Church, Wegg is majoring in vocal performance and also studying religion at the 5,500-enrollment university that also graduated his older sister. When he learned about Threshold, an optional UIndy program that precedes the start of classes and introduces incoming freshmen to spiritual life on campus, he was the very first to sign up. As a teen, he was already active in church-related mission trips and as a community volunteer, often working with children. He plans to maintain those interests at UIndy, where “Education for Service” is the longtime motto and service projects are built into the curriculum of many courses.
“During these next four years here, I’m going to discover the person God wants me to become,” Wegg said. “He’ll put me through victories, defeats, happiness and sadness, but no matter the circumstance, I will glorify God.”
—Scott Hall, Reprinted with permission of the September/October 2012 issue of Together, the newspaper of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.