FSB orientation advice: Speak softly and be the big pencil

June 2018

Jay Murdock

As the doors to Taylor Auditorium opened, incoming first-year students had their own grades for their first lecture at the Farmer School of Business.

“It was really detailed and they expect a lot out of you, but they really laid out what you’re going to have to do over the next four years, so I liked that a lot,” John Kryscio said.

“It was well put together and engaging. It made me even more excited to be a student here,” Nina Gollapudy remarked.

Some of that excitement can be traced to the presenters of the orientation program, including Dr. David Marshall.

“It’s a tough timeslot. They’ve had lunch, they’ve already listened to a lecture, and they’re ready to sleep. I try hard to keep them awake,” he explained.

While the majority of the audience was hearing him for the first time, Marshall’s now given his talk hundreds of times over the last three decades.

“It’s the highlight of the year for me actually. I know the parents end up reliving their college life. They’re more relaxed, of course, because they’re not going to college. Kids, they’re a little uptight, understandably. I just like to make a connection with all of them,” he noted.

Marshall started helping with orientation a couple of years after he started in the Department of Finance.

“There was a script. I was far more nervous in the beginning, the first couple of years,” he said. “But over time, I came to mold it to fit me, and there even came this point where I said, ‘Can I just do all of them? I’m enjoying this.’ I just wanted to do as many as I possibly could.”

“My goal is to get the students excited about what they’re going to be doing. Yes, I’m trying to be realistic and tell them it’ll be work,” Marshall explained. “I’m sure I say things that parents have said to their kids, but the kids didn’t listen because it came from mom and dad. But if they hear it from someone else, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Marshall’s presentation tends to be memorable for a couple of reasons, one being his recitation of all the things that the students won’t be hearing from their parents now that they won’t be living at home.

“I didn’t develop it, by the way. It was on ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ It just so happened that I had my VCR recording,” he explained. “So I was able to replay it and write it down. It took a long time, and it took a long time for me to memorize it, which does not come easy to me.”

“I thought it would be a nice icebreaker. They’re coming to the Farmer School of Business, thinking ‘Oh, business is going to be so dry.’ And I, in the first five minutes, try to let them know ‘We’re going to have fun. We’re going to learn, but let’s have some fun together.’”

Another moment comes when Marshall compares the students to a golf pencil, then explains that they should strive to be better -- and he pulls out a five-foot long pencil.

“That was a gift from my in-laws 20-plus years ago, and it was so unique, I just had to find a way to fit it in. They just thought it was a cute thing -- they had no idea the mileage I was going to get out of it,” he laughed. “I’m always touched when people remember that story. Parents tell me they’d ask their student, ‘Are you working towards being a big pencil?’”

“I am being a parent. I want to instill in them what they need to prepare for. This is what you need to do, this is not a fifth year of high school. This Is going to be different,” Marshall said. “I want parents to feel like their son or daughter is in good hands, make them feel really good about this place, know their child is going to get a really good education.”

Marshall said he hopes to be a big part of the Farmer School orientation for years to come.

“I would love to take it all the way to the end. This’ll be hard to give up.”

David Marshall talking to students at FSB orientation David Marshall talking to students at FSB orientation David Marshall talking to students at FSB orientation while holding a giant pencil