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UC Troupe Stages Guide for New Students

May 25, 2000

IRVINE — They represent the diversity of college life. One is 58, returning to college after a 40-year break. Another talks frankly about being a recovering alcoholic at 23. A third attended University High in Irvine and lives at home.

The three are among the seven UC Irvine drama students who star in a 26-episode series to teach incoming college students how to survive--and even flourish--in their higher-learning experience. The half-hour segments, called "Mastering the College Experience," are based on a textbook of the same name and its topics included overcoming math and science phobias, time management, eating correctly and relationships.

The series, produced by Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley, will be licensed to colleges around the nation, many of which will run them on local public TV stations. Some colleges are expected to use the series for new-student orientation and even offer course credit for it.

Parts of the series have an MTV "Real World" feel to them, as the camera follows students into classes, at home and as they travel through their lives. Other segments show them going through some of the exercises in the textbook and discussing how it has helped them.

"It was quite enlightening," Erika Tai, the 20-year-old sophomore who grew up in Irvine, said of the documentary. "I found out a lot about myself in terms of my goals and how to reach them . . . not to be just a better student but a healthier lifestyle."

The students were picked after responding to a posting at UC Irvine's drama department. "We wanted to choose people who wouldn't shy away from the camera, because on a daily basis having a camera in your face could be annoying," said Steve Marino, the freelance producer/director. "We wanted a nice mix. People who were somewhat gregarious and not too far out in any one direction so they viewers couldn't identify with them."

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