Campus is packed as fall classes begin at SF College


Students walk past a large sign during the first day of classes at Santa Fe College on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.

Like any other college professor on the first day of class, Jonathan Miot stood at the front of the room Wednesday morning and went over rules, procedures and requirements for the semester.

Unlike in an accounting or history class, Miot and other zoo animal technology instructors reminded the class of student zookeepers to bring in the paperwork for their annual tuberculosis tests, if they hadn't already.

Rarely, Miot said, can humans contract TB from animals, but "we're more concerned about humans giving it to the animals."

A fresh crop of students started fall classes at Santa Fe College on Wednesday, including the class of about 70 zoo students, making up the entire zoo animal technology program. About 24,000 degree-seeking students enroll at SF College annually.

The parking lots on SF College's main campus were jam-packed by 9 a.m., and waiting students drove in circles, stalking any person who returned to his or her car and freed up a space.

Wednesday was business as usual, although the Santa Fe Saints have plenty to be proud of.

Earlier this year, SF College was named a top 10 community college by the Aspen Institute, an organization that studies education and policy.

After the 8 a.m. daily meeting, the student zookeepers trooped out to the enclosures to check on each animal.

An infant white-handed gibbon named Rainer had a sneeze, but a white-throated capuchin called Darwin had stopped vomiting, the primate group reported to zoo director Miot during check-in.

Although Wednesday was the first day of the semester, most of the students worked at the zoo during the break between summer and fall classes.

"We need to have a whole staff of people here every day," said senior Tanner Gresham, 19. "The animals don't get a day off, so it makes sense."

After her first class, pre-calculus, freshman Ashley Segarra went to the bookstore to search for her textbook.

The 18-year-old chemistry major from Dunnellon said she took the bus to campus Wednesday morning and found her class easily enough.

"I was pretty nervous," she said. "But once I got my first class out of the way, I felt pretty good."

In the food court, two new transfer students from Arizona State University waited between classes.

David Morales, 21, and Billy Rosenbalm, 19, transferred to SF College from their native Arizona for a "change of scenery," Rosenbalm said.

So far, Morales said, "It's not really different. It's kind of the same. It's a lot hotter in Phoenix, though."

The two men said they didn't get lost on their way to their morning class, but others did.

"I don't get this alphabet thing," one student said into his cellphone, referring to SF College's system of assigning letters to its buildings. "Why can't they be like UF and use normal names?"

Others gratefully took the campus maps being handed out at welcome stations.

Around noon, the food court began to fill up with groups of students munching and chatting away happily, or in the case of a handful of nursing students wearing blue scrubs, scarfing down slices of Domino's pizza before dashing off to the next class.

A very unenthused Dustin Castaline, 20, was making his way to math class.

"My worst enemy," he said.

Castaline, who said he plays anything with strings, is just trying to hurry up and finish his general education classes so he can transfer to the University of Florida and study music.

He said he didn't feel particularly excited or bothered by the first day of classes.

"It's like any other day of school," he said. "Read the syllabus and that's about it."

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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