Thursday, September 19, 2013

First Year Experience Helps Students "Start Strong"

First Year Experience at the University of New Orleans hosted today a second annual academic resource fair designed to help ensure that students "start strong." Students who start strong, say University officials, are more likely to have a strong student experience and strong finish.

StartStrong fest ran today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the second floor lounge of the University Center, where academic departments programs and activities advancing intellectual pursuits hosted booths designed to help students ask pivotal questions and get involved. The goal was to introduce first-year, transfer and adult students to on-campus resources that can help them to start their UNO careers strong in mind, body and spirit—and help them get to know more about campus and its resources.

Studies and statistics also show that students new to university typically face their first challenges or show first signs of struggle during the third and fourth week of transition to college life. So the event is also an opportunity to reach out, ask questions and connect.

First Year Experience "gave a lot of information at the first orientation," said Long Nguyen, 18, a recent graduate of Helen Cox High School in Harvey, La. "This helped me understand more about the schools—what kind of organizations they have, what they departments are, what they do, how they can help me," he said. "Whether it's financial aid or other questions I have related to my classes, anything I need to know they can answer."

Like many of the first-year students in attendance, Nguyen carried a blue book marked "Passport." First-year students receive the blue book in UNIV 1001, a mandatory class for freshmen. The blank book includes pages for all five colleges, campus dining, the library circulation department, registrar, student affairs and other offices on campus. Students are required to stop in to each place and get their passports stamped within the first week of school. While they are at it, said Nguyen, they have an easy opportunity to ask questions—and a ready-and-willing audience prepared to answer any and all first-year questions. All first-year students are expected to turn in a completed passport on Oct. 1.

"I already got it done—in the first two weeks of school, just walking around," said Nguyen. "First Year Academic Advising—that's really important."

Representatives from UNO's five colleges and interdisciplinary studies program were on hand to answer questions regarding majors and minors, research opportunities, co-curricular student organizations, honor societies and other campus opportunities that will help them to "start strong."

"We are trying to attract students and say what we are," said Professor Mustafa Sarwar, who leads the University's honors program. "We are using this as a venue for recruitment and for visibility. We want to communicate to everyone on campus what we are and what we are doing."

Sarwar said he also had a personal interest in appearing at the fair.

"For myself, I want to see what's going on all around," he said, "so that not just one unit is doing well—all units should be doing well."

Gerard Williams, coordinator of first-year academic advising in the Office of Enrollment Services, had similar feelings.

"It's a good opportunity to mingle with students and expose students to different departments and just make a connection with them," Williams said.

Also at StartStrong Fest were representatives from UNO's study abroad programs, disability services office, health services, counseling and career services, Learning Resource Center, Diversity Council, Office of International Students, ROTC and recreational sports programs.

"This semester, I don't really want to have extracurriculars because I'm adjusting," said Fernando Avilar, 18, a first-year student from Metairie and graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans. "But next semester, or maybe next year, I do want to get involved."

 

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Office of First Year Experience
UNO's Office of First Year Experience Encourages New Students to StartStrong