Lambiase, twice named a Top Prof by UNT’s Mortar Board
Senior Honor Society, has been teaching technology, public
relations and writing at UNT since 1996. After receiving her
bachelor’s degree in journalism from North Texas, she
worked in print media in Texas and as a spokeswoman for an
East Coast electric utility before returning for graduate
school. She earned her master’s degree in journalism
from UNT and her doctorate in humanities at the University
of Texas at Arlington.
before the start of each fall semester at UNT, when first-year students
move into the residence halls, memories of my own first year on
campus push hard against my more recent identity as a professor.
And I find myself overwhelmed, for a few minutes at least, by the
thrill and dread experienced by all new college students.
And because it still makes me feel sick to my stomach, one memory
from my own first year still evokes a slight post-traumatic response.
The trigger event occurred in fall 1980, on the Sunday night before
finals week. It was at that late moment that I realized all studying
plus weeks of reading assignments could not be crammed into one
night. I’m sure it was a rampant feeling among first-year
There are other memories, of course. But that one night in my Maple
Hall dorm room provided the most salient lesson from that first
year: Study time must be scheduled.
I could have easily fit more study time in between classes and almost
daily visits with my boyfriend for sandwiches and video games at
the New York Subway Shop on Avenue C or week-night concerts at Crossroads,
a rock ’n’ roll dive with carpet that more rightly belonged
on the floor of a taxi.
The dance club once stood at the corner of Fry Street and Hickory,
an off-campus address that still distracts students from their most
scholarly selves. On campus, my dorm friends and I often visited
the Union’s Rock Bottom Lounge to drink beer and to hear a
fledgling group called Brave Combo or a jazz ensemble.
These pleasures and anxieties were punctuated that first year by
lessons of the larger world, too. Iranian students protesting outside
the Willis Library brought the hostage crisis into sharper focus
for American students at North Texas and heightened interest in
that fall’s presidential election.
The year 1980 also was an exciting time for a first-year college
student full of self-awareness. It turned out to be a particularly
good time for a young woman to leave home for educational and career
opportunities. The women’s movement of the 1960s and ’70s
meant a female student could choose a major in the 1980s and reasonably
expect to become a journalist, business executive, educator, politician,
volunteer or other professional.
I learned other lessons to help me navigate the university landscape
and ensure a soft landing for my dreams, beyond the mundane time-management
advice that could have saved me during my first finals week.
Quickly I understood that I had been right to be unconcerned about
arriving at North Texas without a built-in network of friends from
high school — I had chosen North Texas for its journalism
program, not for its social opportunities.
Yet old friends came into play despite my resolve for independence.
During that first week of classes, I happened upon an old friend
from my Dallas elementary school, and she became a great roommate
when I needed one in Maple Hall a few weeks later. My old friend/new
roommate, Tamye Nance (’84), and another grade-school friend,
Belinda Bratcher (’83), turned out to be solid connections
during that first year. And so I confirmed that networking works
well both forward and backward, that reaching out for both new associations
and old was OK.
Choosing to take Latin and honors English courses during my first
semester proved valuable, too, instead of following the usual take-it-easy
advice urged on first-year students. These courses engaged me and
were some of the most satisfying of my undergraduate work, because
in them, I met like-minded people who would be my friends throughout
college and beyond.
I met older students in my Latin course who helped me correct my
study-deficit problem. In the English course I re-read Oedipus
Rex with new understanding that made the play’s “know
thyself” imperative especially relevant.
Lastly, I learned that studying, reaching out for new and old associations,
and choosing a harder path offered much more long-term satisfaction
than the endless diversions of Fry Street, parties and clubbing
during an era when the minimum drinking age was 18. College was
and is meant to be fun, of course, but in its best sense, it must
also be a transformative experience. In that first year, I realized
it was up to me to figure how to achieve that more important result.