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Duke Freshmen Meet on Web Before Meeting in Person

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DURHAM — Freshmen are flooding Triangle campuses. They come from across the country, and most will feel very lonely until they make friends. That is not the case atDuke University.

A quarter of the class of 2004 already have a good idea of who the class clowns, jocks and brains will be.

As freshmen wander around their new home on East Campus, they chat with each other as friends. Long before meeting in person, many got to know each other over the Internet.

The idea originated with Mike Sacks from Yardley, Pennsylvania. The result is a special part of the Duke Web site dedicated to incoming freshmen. It began last December.

"I found five other kids with 'Duke 2004' in their member profiles, and from there it just kept growing," Sacks says. "We reached about 400 by the end of the summer."

TheWeb sitefeatures profiles of about a quarter of the class. Many students posted pictures of themselves, so there were few strangers when classes started.

"There's a message board there for us to just converse," Sacks says. "We can talk to each other in real time, and we can slip on the Web site and talk from our dorm rooms."

The new students say the site is a real benefit.

"I've met so many people who have just been like, 'Oh, I've talked with you online before," says freshman Kate Runde.

"Actually, I went on vacation, and when I came back, I had like 15 e-mails from kids that were going to be going to Duke," says freshman Mark Pike. "I've met like nine or 10 of them already."

"I actually was able to get in contact with some girls in my dorm, actually some girls that will live in my hall, and through that, I know who my neighbors are going to be," says student Lauren McQueen.

The entire group seems to love Duke basketball, but for this class, "nothing but net" has a different meaning.

The Web site is so popular with the incoming class, they want to keep it going, perhaps turning into their student government site.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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