Tea Time and Traditions: Sweet Tea 2015

This article first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Southern Scope, the newsletter of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC).

Forty-two hardy school counselors and independent educational consultants led by Caroline Morris and Kate Henderson toured 15 colleges and universities in Georgia as part of the Sweet Tea Tour. The hottest ticket in town, registration for this tour closed out in under 10 minutes!!

With sweet tea the traditional beverage of the South, I focused on one of the traditions at each of the colleges and universities on our tour. On our first stop at Georgia Institute of Technology, tour guides shared the story of The Whistle, modeled after early industrial steam whistles. The Whistle sounds off to end classes and to announce touchdowns scored by the home team at home games. Moving on to our second Oglethorpe University, we learned General James Oglethorpe established a British colony in what is now the state of Georgia. In honor of the general, the school bearing his name hosts the Petrals of Fire Race, a run around the quad with the goal of finishing one lap before the 12th chime of the campus’s bell.


Day 2, we headed southeast stopping at Mercer University where students as first year students and graduating seniors rub the head of the statue of Jesse Mercer, founder of this institution, for good luck. Continuing southeast, about three hours later, we arrived in the charming city of Savannah and the citywide campus of the Savannah School of Art and Design. In keeping with their mission of creating all forms of art, SCAD students participate in the Sidewalk Arts Festival held annually in Forsyth Park where students and faculty generate chalk drawings for the community to admire.


Setting our sights on Georgia Southern University to the northwest, the 3rd day of travel introduced us to the Sweetheart Circle at GSU. Folklore has it that sweethearts will marry if they walk the circle three times together. Moving on northwest, the Midnight Breakfast at Georgia College & State University provides a delicious respite for students the evening before final exams. Faculty and staff serve students a meal and the Campus Activities Board holds multiple events to entertain the students. Our third stop of the day, the University of Georgia, portends bad luck if first year students walk under The Arch, forged out of black iron, before graduation.    


Berry College, approximately 3.5 hours northwest of UGA, celebrates Mountain Day. Honoring the birthday of Martha Berry, the founder of this college, BC also holds it Homecoming event on the same weekend. As an aside, Berry is the largest campus with 27,000 acres, with the United States Air Force Academy coming in second at 18,000 acres. Continuing our 4th day, we headed southeast to Kennesaw State University. A local children’s hospital is the recipient of teddy bears and other stuffed animals tossed onto the basketball court during halftime of the Teddy Bear Toss, an annual tradition. Rounding out the day and still moving southeast, Agnes Scott College’s young women receive a black onyx ring inscribed with ASC during their Sophomore Ring Ceremony, a semi-formal event.


Georgia State University has a large bronze panther statue in Unity Plaza. We learned on Day 5 that rubbing the panther’s nose before exams and sporting events would bring good luck. Wearing white dresses, the young women at Spelman College participate in special events such as the New Student Orientation Induction Ceremony, Class Day, and Commencement. The white dresses signify the dignity and respect for the occasion. One time-honored rite of passage at Morehouse College is the Parents Parting Ceremony. Students and parents share their redefined roles, and then first year students walk through the college’s gates, which close behind them leaving the parents on the other side. Rounding out the day, we headed back to Emory University, our meeting place for the tour. Dooley, the biology lab skeleton, rules over all the traditions at Emory. With the power to dismiss classes, Dooley and his entourage are a welcome sight for students. Embodied by an unknown student, the Spirit of Emory also has a week-long event in the spring in his honor.

Day 6 we learned Dooley originated at Oxford College of Emory, the original Emory campus before it moved to Atlanta in 1919. At Oxford, Dooley usually takes on the role of the “cloaked campus critic”.

Thank you to each campus for the hospitality, great information, great food, and collegiality showered on us during the Sweet Tea Tour. Many of us are working off the “freshman 15” gained during our week – long adventure. Carolina and Kate, you are the best! Visit the websites of each institution and follow them on social media to learn more about the opportunities awaiting prospective students.

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May 2021 Update

Professional development continues to be a major factor in my work life. With physical visits to campuses curtailed during 2020 (most are re-opening for in-person visits), I spend about 7 -10 hours per week on virtual visits with college admission counselors. The IECA, one of my professional organizations, regularly conducts College Conversations, an hour-long presentation with time built in for Q & A. To date, members of IECA had sessions with the colleges on the chart. Additionally, I added to this list by facilitating sessions in my capacity as the college counselor for the Montessori School of Raleigh where, along with the students, we learned more about UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, the College of Wooster, Queens University of Charlotte, Muhlenberg, Elon, Western Carolina, North Carolina Central, the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Did you know UNC Wilmington has a major in Coastal Engineering or that Western Carolina (along with UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State) is a NC Promise institution? A NC Promise school’s in-state tuition is $500 while non-residents pay $2500 per semester.

Our virtual world allows for hours upon hours of accessible college information sessions. I had to step back and limit myself to a reasonable number of hours of “college visits”.

I challenge my students regularly to move beyond their comfort zone and during the height of the pandemic, I stretched myself way beyond my level of comfort. I am one of 14 co-authors of Becoming The Shero, an anthology depicting the journeys of entrepreneurs at different stages of their lives. My story is in the Embracing the Pivot section.

Another way I stay current is through my new position at Providence College. As of August 2020, I am the College Supervisor for the School Counseling Program. What does the college supervisor do? I supervise the students in the program during their 2-semester internship at a school, where they are directly supervised by their Site Supervisor, a certified professional school counselor. It is the student teaching equivalent for school counseling.

Reading is a daily pleasure for me. Here are nine books (not in chronological order) that helped me to educate myself about current events and issues of social justice:

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents ~ Isabel Wilkerson
  • How to Be An Anti-Racist ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped From The Beginning ~ Ibram X. Kendi
  • I’m Still Here ~ Austin Channing Brown
  • The Color Of Law ~ Richard Rothstein
  • We Want To Do More Than Survive ~ Bettina Love
  • Down Along With That Devil’s Bones ~ Connor Towne O’Neill
  • Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling ~ Rebecca Atkins & Alicia Oglesby
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race ~ Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

To stay up-to-date on trends in college, career and paying for college, see my list of books under the “Parent Resources” tab.

I challenge my students to be lifelong readers. I am practicing what I preach. What are you reading today?

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