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Learning the ropes

Adjusting to college life
goal of student orientation

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Philip Lawler said he isn't going to get rich as a peer counselor during new-student orientation.

The psychology sophomore, who helps freshman and transfers prepare for the fall semester, enjoys his job because he cares about the university.

"They're hardly paying me anything," he said. "I just wanted to help out and kind of get some pride behind UTA."

Orientation, a general introduction to the campus consisting of campus tours, peer counseling and registration assistance, can help new students adjust more easily to university life. It also can help students be more productive so they get more from the college experience, officials say.

Droves of incoming freshmen, transfer students and international students have invaded campus recently to participate in orientation. Because the fall semester is quickly approaching, many of the new students are coming this week.

"I think orientation leads to greater retention of students," Orientation Associate Director Todd Benatovich said. "We give them the opportunity to get involved on campus, even before they start taking classes."

Joe Klonek, a transfer student from the University of Arizona, said he came to orientation to get help registering for classes.

"I came to meet new people and get familiar with the campus, too," he said.

A few changes have been made to the program this summer to help students get acclimated to student life.

Orientation now includes a student-interest session and a calculus readiness exam in addition to its original schedule, he said.

Benatovich is introducing the student-interest session, where various student organizations, such as EX-CEL campus activities and the Panhellenic Council, set up booths in the University Center to introduce new students to activities that are available on campus.

"We've gotten good evaluations from the students and parents so far," he said.

Benatovich said about 1,000 new freshmen and 425 transfer students will participate in orientation. For non-international students, orientation is voluntary, but Benatovich said it is a valuable experience.

"We help them become socially and academically part of the campus," he said.

International Programs Coordinator Julie Walkin said orientation is mandatory for new international students. She said about 350 international students will undergo orientation on Aug. 16, the only day it is offered for those students.

"We cover the nuts and bolts of what international students need to embark on a college career," she said.

Chuks Onwumeme, computer science and engineering sophomore, is an international student from Nigeria who will participate in international orientation as a peer counselor.

He says he does this to help the new students from other countries get used to life on campus because he remembers how different the university was to him when he first arrived here.

"I do tours of campus; it's a personal thing I do," he said. "I give back what I got when I first came here, and it's like a ripple effect."