Florida Southern College has changed a lot over the past 20 years. Since alumna Tara Johnson’s graduation in 2001, the College has completed the Water Dome, added the gorgeous Becker Business and Christoverson Humanities buildings, as well as focused on other areas that have only enhanced student life and academics on campus.
Since coming to FSC in 2016, I have witnessed these and other major changes on campus and experienced what I consider the highlight of FSC’s history. When looking back on the College’s development over the years, I often find myself trading stories and comparing experiences whenever I meet FSC alumni, such as Tara Johnson, who is now the Coordinator of Alumni Relations at FSC and with whom I am interning before I graduate this fall.
After learning that we are both communication majors, I sat down with Tara to reminisce about our college careers and discovered just how similar — and different — our experiences are as Florida Southern Mocs, nearly 20 years apart. In the following interview, I reflect upon each question I asked Tara, after she provides her answer.
Why did you choose FSC?
Tara ’01: One of the Florida Southern Admissions counselors called our house every night; he had almost a full scholarship for me by the time we got off of the phone. Since we live in Lakeland, my parents met with him the next week, and brought back an FSC shirt. The Admissions counselor came back as an alum from the class of 1969 for our Golden Mocs 50th Reunion this past homecoming, and I had the opportunity to meet up with him. Without his help, I could not have attended FSC!
Katherine ’19: I grew up in North Carolina and like Tara, I wasn’t thinking about going out of state for college until I got a flyer in the mail for FSC. The flyer was full of facts on the campus size, student internships, traveling, and the four-year graduation guarantee. My parents and I figured I should apply, and if I was accepted we would visit. I was accepted and attended Scholars Weekend, where I immediately fell in love with the campus. I went to tight-knit schools my whole life, and I wanted to continue doing so for college. I was a huge fan of all of the opportunities the College offered and the fact that it was in Florida, away from the colder weather.
Where was your favorite place on campus as a student?
Tara ’01: The Kappa Delta house. Panhellenic used to be on the lake; it was a row of sorority houses where Nicholas and Wesley are now. Each sorority had its own house and we would paint our front windows for different events. Because we’re local, I didn’t live on campus my freshman year, but I pledged the next year and moved into the Kappa Delta house. So that was my home. We all signed our doors at our last homecoming the year before the building was taken down, and signed what rooms we lived in with sharpies. I have so many memories in that building.
Katherine ’19: Since the campus has grown so much since Tara was a student, I actually have two favorite spots on campus. The first is the area outside of the President’s office. It’s typically a quiet area and I love the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. My second favorite place is William F. Chatlos Journalism Building. Since becoming a communication major, I have made so many new friends and connections, plus everyone there is so creative and supportive.
What is the most memorable experience from your college career?
Tara ’01: One day my roommate and I were in our room watching "Felicity” when we heard the fire alarm, but we thought it was a drill so we continued to watch TV. The alarm continued to go off, so after about 10 minutes we decided to go into the hallway to see what was happening. The hall was full of smoke and it turns out it was a real fire. By the time the fire department got there one of the Kappa Delta sisters had put it out with a fire extinguisher.
Katherine ’19: I have too many memorable experiences to choose from, but all of the trips I have been on are definitely my top picks. Traveling is my favorite pastime and I have been able to do so much of it throughout my college career. I traveled to New York City for the first time for AdWeek, which was a ton of fun. I also went to Germany on a Junior Journey trip for three weeks and it was amazing to travel the country and stay in three big cities. I am also looking forward to visiting Eastern Europe for my second Junior Journey this fall!
How did FSC help you in pursuing your career?
Tara ’01: My public relations professor, who was also the chair of the department at the time, would bring in emails from people he had made connections with locally or past students who were now working in the communications field. They would send him internship opportunities and he would come into class and say, “Anyone looking for an internship, I have an email here?’ and I would always pursue them. So, I had three internships before I graduated, which really helped prepare me for a career after college.
Katherine ’19: My professors are the best, and they have been a huge help when it comes to figuring out what I want to do with my life. During the past few years, they have provided me with the guidance and connections I need to gain internships around Lakeland. Since Lakeland is such a vibrant community, I have met many creatives and entrepreneurs. Because of this, I have had over five internship opportunities and without them, I would have no idea what to do when I graduate.
How has FSC changed since you first started attending?
Tara ’01: I got my first cell phone and email address in college; I didn’t have either before because they didn’t exist. We all had landlines in our rooms and I remember having to pay my phone bill at the on-campus post office every month. I didn’t have a debit card, so I had to write a check. Also, the only place to eat on campus was the Cáf. The business department was where student development is now, so any classes I had for marketing, business, or economics were in the Carlisle Rogers Building because the Becker Business Building hadn’t been built yet. There are many new buildings, and a lot of departments have moved around on campus. The food and technology have definitely changed!
Katherine ’19: It has only been a few years since I started attending FSC, and the biggest changes I have seen are a few new buildings and a lot of new clubs/organizations being added to campus.