An Undergrad’s Guide to Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio

*Note: the Writer is a third-year undergraduate student in the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University. She has lived on and off campus. This information pertains only to the Dayton campus, and may not be accurate for the Lake Campus in Celina, OH.*

The summer after I graduated from high school, I visited family in California. While shopping, a friendly shop owner asked me where I was going to college. “Wright State,” I said, not thinking that this man would know about the public liberal arts school in the backyard of an air force base. He laughed and said, “Wright State, wrong school.”

Wright State is the jealous younger stepbrother of Ohio’s premier public universities–Ohio State, Ohio University, and Miami University at Oxford, to name a few. Wright State tries so hard, and luckily it has a nearby community college to make it look better, but it never quite measures up. But for all its faults, it has a good atmosphere, competent staff, and a lot to offer for someone just looking for a medium-sized local school.

Academics and Staff

Wright State is on a quarter schedule. Each quarter of the main academic year is ten weeks long. Several summer sessions are also available. The school year begins the week of Labor Day and ends in mid June. Winter Break begins the week of Thanksgiving and ends after New Year’s Day, totaling six weeks; classes are available during this time. Spring Break is in March and is one week long. The benefit of this schedule is that each year, you can take more credit hours than a semester schedule would allow you, and the long Winter Break spares commuters from about a month of nasty winter driving. The disadvantage is that often classes seem rushed in order to accommodate all of the pertinent information.

The professors and adjuncts at Wright State average out to a good group, although you will encounter some bad apples. Many, if not most, of the professors at Wright State are “easy” and not very demanding of the students. Others teach with an iron fist and expect nothing less than your absolute best effort; usually, these professors teach the higher-level courses. This is no different than what you will find at other schools. The main difference you may find is that very few classes are taught by graduate student Teaching Assistants (science labs being the most common exception). Even the adjunct professors are good.

The University Honors Program is great. If you’re eligible for it, I recommend it. The classes are smaller, and because they are exclusively available to UHP students, you will find yourself in class with the same group of people. Honors freshmen have to attend two UHP-provided lectures, outside of class, in their first year. The topics of these lectures vary, usually centered around current events, politics, and controversial topics. UHP offers other perks: Honors students get to register for classes a week earlier than the rest of the student body. There are scholarships and fellowships available, and independent study is encouraged and can be applied for credit. To graduate with Honors, a student must take a certain number of Honors courses and complete a senior-year capstone research project. Honors advisors seem more knowledgeable than your assigned academic advisor when it comes to helping you pick your classes.

Wright State is comprised of the College of Liberal Arts, the Raj Soin College of Business (which seems to have a fairly good reputation), the Boonshoft School of Medicine, the College of Education, and the College of Science and Mathematics. Most students fall under the umbrellas of the first two colleges. Wright State’s film program is well-known and acclaimed for excellence. The Department of Foreign Languages is also very good, and there are many opportunities for study abroad in a number of foreign countries.

Classes are offered during the day, with the earliest beginning at 8:30am, as well as evening classes to cater to the large population of “nontraditional” students. Classes are also offered over the summer and during winter break (“intersession”), but the selection is considerably slimmed, especially for upper-level classes. But if you really want to, it’s not hard to increase the speed limit on the road to graduation.

One popular course of action that you may want to consider is to take your General Education classes at Sinclair Community College, where you will pay FAR less. SCC credits transfer over to Wright State, and many people get their Gen Eds out of the way and then transfer to WSU to finish out their degrees.

Residential Living

Wright State has three dormitory communities and four on-campus apartment complexes, offering something for anyone’s living preferences. The Residential Services office is located under the school’s water tower, and the staff is friendly and helpful–except when you are trying to get out of your contract. Room and board in dormitories includes a mandatory meal plan (around $700/quarter ON TOP OF room and board costs); a communication plan that includes Ethernet, voicemail, limited long-distance coverage, and wireless connections in most buildings; a miniature refrigerator, microwave, and sink in each room; and laundry facilities in each community. For an additional charge, students can live on campus during spring break (1 week) and winter break (6 weeks).

With the exception of incoming freshmen, housing is assigned by lottery. Your lottery number reflects the number of credits you have. You can also write an essay to win a better lottery number. Once you get your number, on the specified day and time you report to the multipurpose room of the Student Union and submit your housing request, with a second choice and a deposit. After that you play the waiting game until they tell you which building you made it into. Of course, if you’re happy with where you are, you can opt to “squat,” forgoing the entire lottery process and getting your exact same room back next year. You can also request a certain person as a roommate, but each person must request the other one on their housing application.

Hamilton Hall is the oldest dorm on campus; it is known to most students as “the Ham.” It is conveniently located right next to the Student Union and is close to most of the classroom buildings. The building is co-ed, males and females separated by floor. Two to three people share a room, and each floor shares a community bathroom. It is reputed to be a fun place to live, and also to have one of the slowest elevators on campus, rivaled by the Creative Arts Center and the Russ Engineering Center. Room costs per quarter are about $2,300.

The Woods is a collection of nine buildings, each of which is named after a tree. Rooms come in single, double, triple, and quad occupancy, in order from most to least expensive. All floors are co-ed. Bathrooms are en-suite, and single and double rooms share a bathroom with the next room (always single-sex). The Woods has a reputation of being the ghetto of Wright State’s residential communities, and this is only half based on race. People are out, about, and awake at all hours, crowding the space between buildings to smoke cigarettes. It can be a little creepy to walk alone through the Woods at night. A few crimes, including robbery and armed assault, have happened there in the past few years. Drugs are also a common issue in the Woods.

The newest of the residential halls is the Honors Community. Within this 6-story, 3-wing building, you can find a Rec room, a tanning salon, the Bridge Café (a reference to the footbridge that cross the creek and leads to the main part of campus), a convenience store with a Subway-like sandwich deli, a small gym open only to Honors and Woods residents, and a brand-new salon called “The Wright Image.” An Honors faculty member lives in this dorm full-time each year. Rooms in Honors are all doubles and are slightly larger than doubles in other buildings. Floors are co-ed, and bathrooms are en-suite and shared with the next room. Despite the best efforts to give each floor a decorative theme, the Honors hall has a cold and sterile feel to it. It is better conducive to study because it is so much quieter than other residence halls. Even with all of the amenities offered by the building, it can be very dull on a Saturday night. Be prepared to be met with a sneer when you tell people you live in Honors; it has a reputation for being full of snobby rich kids (it’s the most expensive living plan) and know-it-all teachers’ pets (to live in the community, a student must be in the Honors program, a National Merit Scholar, or a recipient of the very competitive all-expenses-paid Trustee’s Scholarship). That said, it’s not all bad to live there. You don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to get groceries at the C-Store (which are charged to your meal plan), the gym is much less crowded than the gym at the Student Union, and some Honors classes are offered within the building.

On-campus apartments are cheaper than residence halls, but often, living off-campus is even more economic, especially as the rent there is charged monthly instead of per quarter. Plus, if you go home for the summer, too bad: the contract is for four quarters, like it or not. Off-campus apartments often have school-year leases. A benefit is that all utilities, cable, phone, and internet are included in your quarterly rent.

College Park and University Park apartments flank the Honors building. A student must be at least a sophomore or at least 21 to live in College and University Parks. University Park apartments are fully furnished, including a washer and dryer, and have four bedrooms and two full baths. College Park apartments are also 4BR/2BA, but the main difference is that they are unfurnished with the exception of a washer and dryer. This amounts to less than $100 in price difference between the two complexes.

Forest Lane apartments are near the Residential Services building, by the water tower. The actual road, Forest Lane, continues off-campus to connect to Zink Rd. There is a deep valley between the on- and off-campus sides of the road, with a gate to prevent car travel from one side to the other. On-campus Forest Lane apartments have two bedrooms and one bath, with two to four people per apartment. They are fully furnished and offer the same amenities as CP and UP, with the exception of laundry; facilities are located in a separate building. Off-campus Forest Lane is inhabited by party animals, fraternities, and other noisy, messy, unsavory characters.

The Village is the ritziest complex. It is available to junior, senior, graduate or professional students, students with families or partners (i.e. married), or students 23 years of age or older. The apartment floor-plans are “Efficiency” and “Deluxe Efficiency” (basically, studio apartments), one-bedroom, and two-bedroom. This complex even has a playground outside for kids.

If you plan to join a Greek society, note that your housing will not be on campus. Fairborn law dictates that a house that contains a certain number of females qualifies as a brothel and is illegal, so there are no sorority or fraternity houses within the boundaries of campus. Sometimes a College Park or University Park apartment serves as the base for a Greek organization, evidenced by the letters displayed on the porches of these apartments. I stayed far away from all aspects of Greek life, scared off by popular culture and my own superstitions. Because of my own ignorance and presumptions about these groups, I will not be providing a section on Greek life.

If you want to live off-campus, there are a number of apartment complexes along Zink Rd. Tour them and go around at night to see which ones are the big party neighborhoods (hint: Cimarron Woods and Meadow Run). There are also plenty more apartments and houses for rent in the general Fairborn and Beavercreek area, or you can go further south to Kettering and Centerville, or north to Springfield and Yellow Springs.

Food and Dining Dollars

Wright State’s food is provided by Sodexho, which is generally not a bad company: they believe in corporate responsibility and head up an initiative to stop people from going hungry in many of America’s larger cities. The food they serve is pretty healthy, but as on most campuses, prices are a bit outrageous if you’re not paying with the meal plan.

The campus has two main cafeterias as well as two cafés, excluding the one in the Honors building. It also once held a bar called the Rathskeller, but that has since been replaced by student organization offices and a small lounge that is usually inhabited by geeks playing videogames on the big-screen TV. Rathskeller is now a general term for this area of the Student Union’s basement.

The more expensive, more extensive cafeteria is the Union Market in the Student Union. The Union Market provides a very small selection of groceries (cereal, snacks, and frozen entrees). It also has several mini-kitchens for different meals. The Salvador Deli is a Subway-like sandwich deli. The Chef’s Kitchen provides full meals like fried chicken and mashed potatoes-good ol’ home cooking. Palettes is a stir-fry kitchen that will cook up any veggies and meats that you choose; there is often a long line for this. Formaggio’s is like a Little Caesar’s, serving up pizza, calzones, stromboli, and Bosco sticks (cheese-filled garlic bread sticks). On the Barbie has general fast-food fare like burgers, fries, onion rings, fish sandwiches, and the new Raider Menu, featuring smaller portions and lower prices. Herbs and Bisque is a salad and soup bar. There is also a pasta bar; the two pastas of the day come with a sauce of your choice and a piece of garlic bread. A la carte items like desserts and bagels are available at Napoleon’s, and prepackaged salads, sandwiches, fruit cups, pudding, Jello, and yogurt are great options from the Smart Market. A prepackaged Smart Market sandwich, a bag of chips, and a drink will cost around $7.00, though. Over time, Union Market food can add up if you’re paying out of pocket. It’s more popular for students on the meal plan than with commuters. Oh, and the seating area is HUGE.

The Hangar is located in Allyn Hall, surrounded on three sides by a chlorinated moat (emptied in the winter). Its large windows overlook the quad, and it is almost always crowded. The Hangar is for you if you like fast food. It has a Pizza Hut, a new sandwich bar like the Salvador Deli, a Chick-fil-A, a Taco Bell, and Skyline Chili. It also has select a la carte items like bagels, muffins, prepackaged salads and sandwiches, coffee, ice cream, and slushies, and a soup and salad bar. It can be difficult to eat healthily at the Hangar, especially since the junk food options are usually so much cheaper than healthy a la carte items. It offers indoor and outdoor seating, or you can always take your meal out to the quad on a nice day.

The Wright Cup is adjacent to the Student Union, and Café Wright is in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library. Both serve coffee, tea, juices, bagels, and other coffee-oriented snacks like biscotti. Seasonal items like hot apple cider are very popular. They have perhaps the most reasonable prices on campus.

The standard dining package available to residents is around $725, $25 of which is just a “processing fee.” They also offer “expansion” packs and try to convince you that you need them, but honestly, it’s not hard to live on the $700 plan with some common sense and still have some left over near the end of the quarter. Leftover money rolls over to the next quarter until the end of the year, when anything you haven’t spent goes into the University’s pocket. Expansion packs can be bought separately and can be a good option for commuters who plan to eat on campus. Students can also put money into their Flex Accounts, which is the debit-card function of your student ID, and pay for food that way-just make sure you specify “Flex Dollars” to the cashier.

Wright State Dining Facilities DO NOT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS. Tough beans.

Dining Dollars are also accepted by the Donato’s Pizza located in the Page Manor shopping complex on Colonel Glenn Hwy, headed toward Riverside. When calling on the phone, MAKE SURE you tell them you’re paying with Dining Dollars, and they’ll get your card number. Don’t worry, this card number isn’t used for anything else.

Shoplifting food is tempting because of the high prices, and because it seems so easy to get away with, what with the crowds and the lack of security. However, this jacks up the price of food, so in the end it is counterproductive. Don’t do it; you’re ruining it for the rest of us.

Student Organizations

Wright State has a plethora of student organizations, and there truly is something for everyone. I couldn’t possibly name them all here. No less than three of them are Christian campus ministries.

Three events during the year, described in more detail below, serve as advertising venues for the Student Organizations: the Student Organization Fair, Fall Fest, and May Daze.

The University Activities Board is the official governing office of student organizations and the brains behind the above-mentioned (and many of the below-mentioned) events. Honestly, anything big and fun on campus usually has UAB stamped all over it. They also occasionally host things like Dance Dance Revolution tournaments to lure the geeks out of their caves. The UAB’s mascot is a chicken. Only UAB members seem to know why, but this friendly yellow guy is recognized and saluted across the campus.

A student organization must have four officers: a President, a Vice President, a Treasurer, and a Secretary. These officers are voted into office by the group’s constituents, and must be currently-enrolled Wright State students.

Campus Events

I can’t give you the entire event calendar for the year, but there are a few things that happen every year and draw the student body out in record numbers.

Fall Fest is in late September and serves to introduce students to student organizations. Organizations set up tables on the North Lawn (by the Student Union and Hamilton Hall) and pass out information, candy, balloons, door prizes, etc. There is often live music on a stage by the Ham.

The Homecoming Parade takes place in October and closes off the entirety of University Boulevard, ending in Lot 4, the most spacious parking lot on campus. Because Wright State does not have a football team, we get a homecoming soccer game, which few people actually attend.

The Multicultural Halloween Celebration is a huge event that attracts students and non-students alike with its promise of buffet-style international food and packed schedule of interesting multicultural entertainment.

May Daze is the next pivotal event. May Daze is around May 5, and it is Wright State’s traditional drinking holiday, full of power-hours and parties. In an effort to curb drinking, the UAB puts on a festival much like Fall Fest, but this time it includes outside vendors. Climbing walls and inflatable bouncy things clutter the lawn, as well as an old junker car that you can pay a few bucks to smash with a club. May Daze is invariably fun. Should you decide to go full-out with the holiday, be careful: campus police as well as local law enforcement are well aware of what’s going on, and they keep a very close eye on the dorms and apartments, on and off campus. Beavercreek police set up a command center in the Meijer parking lot-Meijer is a within-walking-distance source for May Daze revelers-and patrol the streets looking for illegal behavior and underage drinkers. For the love of God, if you’re going to drink on May Daze, be safe about it.

Athletics and Student Fitness

As mentioned before, Wright State is adamantly refusing to get a football team. This falls second on the list of Most Common Student Gripes-the first gripe being parking. Our soccer and basketball teams aren’t half bad. In the last season, our men’s basketball made it to some sort of state championship game but lost. Their achievement was enough to raise Raider spirit a little bit, but in general the student body is boycotting school spirit until football comes to WSU.

Better luck next season, Rowdy.

The new Student Fitness Center, located in the basement of the Student Union, is amazing. Five flat-screen TVs arranged in a semi-circle face the cardio equipment. To listen to the TV, just plug your headphones into your treadmill! There is an extensive selection of weight and resistance machines, Swiss balls, free weights, and stretching apparatus. The Recreation and Fitness Department also gives free-yes, FREE-fitness classes throughout the year, and has three studios where these classes take place. Everything from dancing to Pilates to spinning to Tai Chi is there for the taking, no commitment necessary. The classes each last an hour. If swimming is your thing, check the hours for open swim in the pool.

The Erwin J. Nutter Center

The Nutter Center is an all-purpose convention center, home to concerts, sports events, job fairs, and high school graduations. I saw Lynard Skynard perform there and graduated on the same floor a year later. It also hosts physical education classes, known as HPR classes. If you take an HPR that’s at the Nutter Center, give yourself plenty of time to get there and back, especially in the winter. It’s about a 15- to 20-minute walk if you’re up to it, but most students drive. There is also a shuttle bus that runs from Millett Hall to the Nutter Center, but it may not line up with your schedule. As I understand it, the Nutter Center has a top-notch workout facility.

Off-campus Attractions

If there’s just one thing that Dayton, OH lacks (and I’m sure there’s more than one thing), it’s a night life for young adults. There are a few clubs to choose from, and bars if you’re old enough, but my late-night-party-loving friends have often complained that there really isn’t much to do in Dayton.

Interestingly, two of the most popular clubs in Dayton are Masque and Celebrity’s, both of which used to cater to a mostly-gay audience. Not anymore! Students of all sexual orientations and backgrounds love to go to Masque for the good music, good shows, and good times. Girls love it because they’re not getting hit on by skanky, smelly guys. The cover charge is low, and drinks are, of course, available within.

Other clubs in the area are the Gin Mill, Hammerjax, and the Foundry. Dayton has plenty of bars and pubs, but they don’t seem to be a huge hit with most college students. In fact, Wright Staters are more likely to cross Colonel Glenn for happy hour at El Rancho Grande than to drive downtown for a drink.

Beyond clubs, the area around the Wright State campus does have a few things worth checking out. The aforementioned Mexican restaurant, El Rancho Grande, has great food and low prices. The nearby Fairfield Commons Mall will meet all of your shopping needs, but in case it doesn’t, Wright State is right off of I-675, which can take you down to Kettering (the Greene outdoor shopping mall) and Miamisburg (the Dayton Mall area) or up to Yellow Springs, popular for John Bryan State Park and Young’s Dairy Farm. Meijer is the largest grocery store in the area and within walking distance of most campus apartments and dorms. In the Meijer parking lot, there is also a Starbucks, a Penn Station, and a nail salon.

For textbooks, make the trip across the street to the College Store; you will undoubtedly get better prices there than at Wright State’s Barnes and Noble bookstore.

The Tunnels

The buildings on the main part of campus are connected by a series of underground tunnels. The university was constructed in the late 1960s, opening in 1967; these tunnels were meant to act as bomb shelters. I suppose there are certain hazards involved in being in the backyard of a major U.S. Air Force base. The tunnels are finished (although they still have that cold, unfriendly feel of a hospital basement), heated, and webbed with wireless access points. There are study areas and vending machines as well as offices; some people never leave the tunnels when the weather’s bad. In the winter, the tunnels are a godsend, but when it’s nice out, it’s often faster to get where you need to go above ground. Construction occasionally blocks certain passages, and there is little more frustrating than trying to find an alternate route, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the tunnels. Luckily, they’ve posted maps, and after a while you’ll learn your way around pretty easily. Cell phone reception is a little fragmented in the tunnels.

Paul Laurence Dunbar Library (and Other Good Study Bunkers)

The Paul Laurence Dunbar Library is an incredible resource. Four floors of any kind of media you could ever want, a computer lab, a group study room, a café, tables with rotating white boards in the middle… it’s a bookworm’s dream. It’s also very quiet and quite peaceful, so it’s a great place to settle in with your notes before an exam-or take a between-class nap. I personally love killing time there.

If you can’t find what you need at this library, you may be directed to one of the University’s smaller libraries, one in Allyn and one in the Medical Science building.

The Student Union has a computer lab near the Wright Cup and the Union Market, but beware: there aren’t many computers here, it’s often full, and it’s noisy, so if you can’t study like that, it might not be the place for you. If both of these computer labs are full, head over to Millett, where the second-floor computer lab can be used if there isn’t a class in there.

Residence halls have common areas and lounges that are often quiet and study-ready. If you live in the Woods, Honors, College Park, or University Park, the newly-remodeled Bridge Café is a very cozy place to study, a Chai Tea or smoothie by your side as you snuggle into an overstuffed couch amid the aroma of a scented candle. Just make sure you don’t pick a day when they host a movie night, game night, or karaoke.

My Favorite Spots on the Dayton Campus

The Hiking Trails: I’m an outdoorsy sort of person, and to me there’s little more calming than a walk in the woods. Wright State has little patches of forest here and there, intertwined with hiking trails. Few students seem to know or care about these trails, as even on the most beautiful day of spring, I encounter very few people on them. One trail has a bridge over a creek, a great place to sit and read. Just be careful at night, when the trails are prowling ground for students who don’t want to get caught smoking weed or drinking in the dorm room. Vodka bottles and cigarette butts litter some parts of the trails, but as soon as you get deeper into them, the litter lessens.

The Graveyard: No, I’m not gothic or obsessed with death. My friend and I stumbled upon an old cemetery plot that belonged to the founding family of Wright State, or something like that, while taking a walk after lunch. It’s eerie, but peaceful at the same time, and completely secluded. Can you tell yet that I like to be alone?

The Piano Lounge: Officially, this is known as the Pathfinder Lounge, but hardly anyone would know what you were talking about if you referred to it that way. This room in the Student Union, right next to the art gallery, is mostly known as the piano lounge or the commuter lounge. As you might have guessed, its main attraction is a baby grand piano, available for public use. You usually meet pretty interesting people in this lounge, and if you’re there at the right time, you can hear some excellent pianists, not including myself. It’s painted in shades of green, and the decoration is rather calming. The piano isn’t necessarily always well-tuned, though.

The Dunbar Library: I already said a little about how wonderfully quiet and perfect this library is. I spent most of my time there during the most recent spring quarter, constantly amazed at the size and content of this huge building.

Lot 20: As I mentioned, parking is the No. 1 gripe of students at Wright State. However, this is mostly because few of them are willing to park in any lot that’s not adjacent to their classroom building. This is why parking at Wright State is hellish, at least during the day. Lot 20, however, is down in the boondocks of campus, by the WSU police department’s building and the Nutter Center. To walk from a spot in Lot 20 to Millett Hall takes a little over 20 minutes, and it’s downhill on the way back. And if walking isn’t your thing, you can just climb aboard a comfy, heated or air-conditioned shuttle bus and take a five-minute ride up to Millett. Lot 20 is spacious and almost always has open spots-I’ve never seen it completely full. Plus, a “Remote” parking pass for this lot is only $15 for the entire year, compared to the $60-some you’ll pay for a “Commuter” pass.

Contact me if there’s anything about Wright State that you think I forgot or would like to know!


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