Twenty Years Later, Like Mother, Like Son
By Zachary Risinger
My mother is, by definition, an alumna of UC Irvine. I say “by definition” because the requirement for alumni status is 12 credit hours in a degree-seeking program, and she came within a quarter or two of graduating. Why didn’t she finish? Well, because I happened.
Sandy Risinger began her time at UCI in the winter quarter of 1988-89, entering as a biological sciences major. She lived in Campus Village for those first two quarters, going to class and working at a café there called Woofie’s, which is now a small gym in the Campus Village Community Center.
“I wanted to go to UC Irvine because I wanted to live there, too. I mean, it’s a UC and I was coming for my education, but at the same time, I wanted to live somewhere where I was going to be happy. I love Orange County,” Risinger said.
“I was at the beach all the time. I felt like there was always something I wanted to do. It just felt healthy — there were always people walking or riding their bike. People were always sailing and surfing in Newport. There’s shopping, there’s always shopping, of course. And the beach never sucked,” she said.
“I would totally live in Irvine again. It’s clean, it’s green and people clearly care about their surroundings. I don’t know, it’s just nice,” Risinger continued.
After her time in Campus Village, she moved to Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and then back to the Newport Beach peninsula during her time at UCI, having to move back home to Santa Clarita every summer.
“I remember there used to be a trailer park thing across from Campus Village on Physical Sciences Road. I remember in particular these brothers that parked their RV there and lived for really cheap. It was interesting,” Risinger said.
As she moved around Orange County, her jobs changed as well.
“I worked in a bakery by John Wayne Airport and a restaurant in South Coast Plaza called 40 Carrots. I was never in any clubs — my roommates were all about that. I was more worried about paying the bills,” she said.
Her classes were largely the same as they are now — big lecture halls, discussion sections for said lectures and lab a couple times times a week. When it comes to signing up for classes, not much has changed since then — getting classes was still difficult, if not more so in late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Signing up for classes was the hugest pain. You used to have to call in your classes and sign up that way. And if you couldn’t get into a class, you had to keep calling and dialing everything in. Over and over again. It was a nightmare,” Risinger said.
When it came to sports, however, things were a little different.
“Everyone wanted to be the water polo team. Basketball was big, and we had wrestling and diving. Never had football, though. Of course. And people were all about rowing too,” Risinger said.
“Everything was a lot smaller, that’s for sure. Half of the buildings that are there now weren’t even there when I was there. We called UCI ‘Under Construction Indefinitely,’ because they were always building things. There were tractors going around all the time. All the buildings that were already there were the ones that look like Langson,” she said.
“I remember people being really excited about the pub opening during my last year at UCI,” Risinger recalled. “There was finally a place on campus where alcohol was going to be sold, and naturally people were excited about that.”
Risinger recalled that the student life here was centered on Greek life more than anything else.
“Everything was about the fraternities and sororities and what they were doing. There were things like Reggae Fest back then too, but I feel like most of the social atmosphere centered around the Greek system,” Risinger said.
Risinger remembers her time at UCI as being relaxed, spending her time studying out in the sun in Campus Village in her upstairs apartment on her balcony, or studying on the beach with nothing but a towel and a book.
One of the funniest moments I’ve experienced with my mother in her recollection of UCI’s past is a simple one. It was the day of Wayzgoose 2009, while I was still a senior in high school. Climbing to the top of the Mesa Court parking structure in her white Ford Mustang, we crept by multiple empty stalls, all too narrow for someone to park their car in because of the terrible parking jobs by other drivers too busy or lazy to correct themselves. We made it to the roof, where we finally found a spot to park.
“If there’s one thing you’ll learn quickly, Zach,” she told me, “it’s that the parking here is awful. It’s been 20 years, and people still park like fuck-heads.”