Vital statistics carded

September 15, 1995

As a boy growing up in Pennsylvania, Chris Jachimowicz's best friend's father was a security guard at Topps Chewing Gum. Topps was the leading manufacturer of trading cards, and from there was born a minor obsession that continues to this day.

"He would bring home stuff, and I got the left-overs," Jachimowicz said.

His collection stuffed in shoe boxes ranges from standard baseball cards to true crime cards from the early 1980s, and even a set from the 1960s James Bond film, Thunderball.

He recently set his hobby to work as a way to help new students on his Massachusetts campus to find their way around.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where Jachimovowcz is assistant dean of students, printed 50 trading cards with the pictures and vital statistics of professors, buildings, and college traditions on campus and handed them out in mixed bundles to 675 freshmen in orientation sessions. There were prizes for those who assembled complete sets.

"There aren't too many exciting ways to get information out to students these days," he said.

"The MTV generation doesn't like to sit still for much information. This provides a dose they may be willing to take."

Orientation is a time-consuming tradition at US universities - with hazing rituals its darker side. Jachimowicz's gimmicky reaching out to new arrivals has earned coverage in major newspapers and networks.

But an increasing number of orientation sessions are also aimed at anxious parents.

Seeking to calm "separation anxiety", colleges are providing everything from wine tastings to psychological counselling and two-day workshops for parents in a country where growing numbers have free-phone numbers so that their children can call them from any phone booth.

Several invite parents to spend a night in students dormitories and be briefed on campus policies regarding security, date rape, and sex education.

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