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Posted by raherschbach on 24 Aug 2017

With a rare astronomical event coinciding with the first day of classes, the fall semester at Capitol got off to a memorable start Monday (August 21).

During the afternoon, students, faculty, and administration gathered outside for the solar eclipse that captivated viewers across the United States. While Maryland was outside the path of totality, viewers in the state were able to see the moon obscuring approximately 80% of the sun’s surface. University personnel were on hand to provide NASA-approved solar eclipse glasses for safe viewing.

Sharhonda Whitfield was among the students who turned out to watch the event. “It was my first time seeing an eclipse,” she said. “I grew up watching space shows on PBS, so I’d seen eclipses shown on TV, but I’d never witnessed one live. I really liked the way it brought everyone outside.”

The eclipse capped a busy day at the university, with a new school year officially under way. Incoming freshmen arrived on campus last week for orientation, and returning students were due back on campus on Saturday.

The enthusiasm among students – both new and returning – was everywhere to be felt, said Brandi McKee, director of residential life and student services.

“The students had a lot of fun at orientation, and the energy is still going,” she said. “We had over 50 students show up for the eclipse viewing.”

“Everyone seems very excited and happy,” she said.

Capitol's incoming freshman class is 65-strong, with applicants each year drawn to the university's diverse variety of business, engineering, and technology programs, as well as the close-knit, supportive atmosphere of a small campus.

Many graduates go on to work for agencies such as NASA and  the NSA, as well as major companies such as General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon. The university boasts a strong employability track record, with 80% of graduates landing jobs within three months of graduation, at salaries nearly double the national average, according to 2016 data.

Asked about their goals for the semester, students highlighted academics and career preparation, while some also said campus clubs and activities are important.

Cybersecurity major Raekwon Banks aims to maintain a high GPA and land an internship that can ultimately lead to a full-time job in the field. “I hope to work either at a company like Northrop Grumman, or for the federal government,” he said.

Elijah Therrien, who studies computer engineering, is beginning his first year as a resident assistant. For him, the first week of school is a time to relax after prepping the dorms – and after a demanding internship over the summer.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and hanging out with them,” he said. He also hopes to maintain his current 4.0 GPA average while transitioning to mostly online classes as a junior this year.

For new students, he has this advice: although academics are crucial, it’s also important to get out and get involved.

 “Interact with the community. Don’t just stay in the dorms. If there’s an opportunity to volunteer or help out with something, then try to do so,” he says. “That way, when you’re looking for a job down the road or need a letter of reference, you’ll have more opportunities, you’ll have more people who know you and know your work ethic.”

Photo: Student Annie Yang watches the solar eclipse at Capitol on Monday (August 21).

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