Video: College survey looks at freshmen's world

updated 8/25/2005 6:27:14 AM ET 2005-08-25T10:27:14

For this year’s crop of college freshmen, Starbucks has always been around the corner, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” has always been on the air, and men named George Bush have been president for more than half of their lives.

Born in 1987, the freshmen attending their first college lectures around the country this term grew up with pay-per-view television and voice mail on their phones, dirty dancing at school proms, and the United States as the only superpower.

Those are some of the cultural landmarks on the Beloit College Mindset List, an annual compilation that offers a glimpse of the world view of each incoming class. The list was released Wednesday by the private school of 1,200 in this southern Wisconsin city.

The Class of 2009 has never known Andy Warhol, seen Jimmy Swaggart preach on TV, or watched Arsenio Hall.

Jimmy Carter? “That’s just another name people throw around,” said Abby Engebose, 18, who was going through orientation Tuesday on the school’s 40-acre campus.

Technologically savvy, the students grew up with home computers, digital cameras, and souped up car stereos. Cable television has always been powerful and has blurred the lines between news and entertainment.

A tie? What's that?
Like most of the men in his class, Joe Erkenbrack, 18, of Pella, Iowa, admitted that he didn’t know how to tie a tie. He doesn’t even own one.

The list reminds older generations what’s happened in the last 18 years and aims to educate professors about the lives of their young students, said Tom McBride, a humanities professor at Beloit who has compiled the list for seven years.

“It reminds them that if they are going to teach Watergate, they have to explain what it is first,” he said.

‘Window into their lives’
Ron Nief, the school’s director of public affairs who helps edit the list, said it has practical uses — branches of the Armed Forces and churches have used it in training young officers and ministers.

“It is a window into their lives,” Nief said, emphasizing that the list is not meant to be a chronology of events.

Lizzie Starr, of Wellesley, Mass., said one listing really hit home for her: that Boston has been working on the “Big Dig” road construction project her entire life. The 18-year-old said she used to take the bus to the airport to avoid driving through the city.

As for Starbucks, “they’ve been there as long as I can remember,” said Leah Knowles, 17, of St. Paul, Minn., who drank her first Frappuccino in seventh grade.

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