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Watch now: Millikin University holds first-year student orientation

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Shelby Baum, director of operations and events, describes the Big Blue Orientation at Millikin University. 

DECATUR — Jacobie Thornton was impressed by Millikin University's Center for Theatre and Dance.

The building, newly completed and ready for use in the fall semester of 2020, didn't get a workout last year due to COVID-19, and Thornton, 18 and an incoming freshman for fall of 2021, will be among the first students to use it at full capacity. He's a celebrated student actor in his home state of Texas, a graduate of Cedar Hill High School in the Dallas area, and nominated for best actor at the Dallas Summer Musical Awards.

Jacobie Thornton

Jacobie Thornton, 18, will be a freshman at Millikin University in the fall. The Texas native was on campus for an in-person orientation.

“It was just a feeling that I had when I stepped on campus, it was a mind, body and soul type of thing,” Thornton said of his decision to attend Millikin. “I saw things, I felt things, and with me being close to theater, loving so much of theater, their theater program really spoke to me. Knowing how competitive it was, it was a matter of if I wanted to come here. Especially when I saw the new building. It's out of this world.”

Millikin is holding freshman orientation this week and for a week in July, inviting about 50 students at a time to visit campus, take tours, meet each other, and start to feel at home.

Big Blue Orientation

Brandt Williamson, left, holds a sign identifying one of the residence halls on Millikin University's campus prior to leading a tour of the building, assisted by Madelyn Alvarado. 

Thornton hopes for a career on the silver screen one day, and his love of acting stems from his desire to tell stories, he said. Too humble to toot his own horn, he calls the recognition “a blessing,” and said he just hopes he's able to touch people.

“For me, it's kind of hard for me to take it all in but also lay back,” he said. “I take (the recognition) and just go into the future with it. I make sure I keep running and keep on the path. I know God is watching out for me, and I know He still has more for me.”

Millikin offered activities for students and parents alike, and Thornton's mom, Felicia, said she's supportive of his goals and feels comfortable with his choice of Millikin, though it's a long way from home.

“Parents are attending our Parents as Partners session, which helps them learn about the different resources available to students and parents,” said Shelby Baum, director of operations and events for Millikin.

The orientation is also a time for students to meet each other, and that's crucial, Baum said.

“This is oftentimes where students meet their roommate, or future friends that they'll already know when they get here in the fall,” she said. “It's a chance for students to feel part of the Millikin family before they get here in the fall.”

Tour guide Kelson Bauman, a sophomore musical theater major, joked that he tries to answer all the freshmen's questions, but when they major in something like science, he's at a bit of a loss. He can, however, tell them about residence halls and whether having a car on campus is a good idea, how to find classes and show them around.

“I think it's really good to get them to understand how many opportunities there are on campus,” he said.

Lunch on the quad

Incoming freshmen enjoyed lunch on the quad at Millikin University during Big Blue Orientation on Wednesday. 

Millikin is planning a return to normal operations in the fall, Baum said, with in-person classes and activities. The university is not requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for students to come back to campus, but is collecting information on how many students are fully vaccinated to help them plan.

“The plan is to be fully operational and open,” she said.


Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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