Underclassmen and transfer students welcome to First Year Fridays

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  • UNI Thrive and the Panther Promise Academy hold “First Year Friday” for first year and transfer students looking for advice and tips on how to adjust to life at a new school.

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A student’s first semester at the University of Northern Iowa can bring about a myriad of experiences which freshman and transfer students alike may encounter. With the many additional challenges facing all students this year compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, first year students can often find themselves lost amidst the stressful tempest that has become this fall academic semester. These students are not without hope nor alone, however, as two campus organizations are teaming up to help first year students navigate their first semester on campus.

The UNIThrive Mentoring Program and Panther Promise Academy have concocted a student-focused event occurring every Friday this semester in the Lang Hall Auditorium from 3-4 p.m., aptly named, “First Year Fridays.” These two campus organizations are cooperatively aiming to provide students with strategies to help overcome some of these academic and lifestyle challenges first year students often face during their initial year on campus.

“First Year Fridays” took place for the first time on Sept. 18th, in-person, in accordance with the campus’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. The topics focused upon at the previous gatherings ranged from financial aid assistance to resiliency, and the groups also hosted a racial trauma and community discussion following the widely covered Breonna Taylor investigation in Louisville, KY. Though the series focuses on tips for first year students, all students at UNI are explicitly welcomed to attend and can gain pertinent information relating to their college experience on campus.

The most recent gathering of the “First Year Fridays” series took place in-person on Oct. 9th with academic advisors Heather Asmus and Kathy Peters presenting on the many different majors and minors provided at UNI. They fielded questions from student groups regarding their majors and minors while also sharing the many opportunities available for students to succeed in these programs. Students were encouraged to consider their satisfaction with their specific majors and minors and how that could relate to their ideal careers and lifestyles. Free t-shirts were given out to participating students throughout the event, and all attendees were treated with baked goods at the conclusion of the gathering.

Moderating and chiefly organizing “First Year Fridays,” Retention and Mentoring Program Coordinator, Dacia Carter, spoke on what they are attempting to accomplish with these weekly in-person gatherings,

“We are hoping to provide positive strategies for students’ success while connecting with other established students currently at UNI,” said Carter. “We want our students to come be apart and be engaged safely in person.”

With many events on campus open to students taking place in varying degrees of virtual formats, organizers of “First Year Fridays” stress the importance of safe, face-to-face connection for students.
“It was important to us because as we know, parts of the college experience have been stripped from most of these students,” said De’Carlos Anderson, Assistant Director of Student Success and Retention and co-organizer of “First Year Fridays.” “So the opportunity to have in-person programming has been very beneficial for a lot of the first year students.”

The next First Year Fridays event will take place on Friday, Oct. 16 from 3-4 p.m., once again in Lang Auditorium. This session will center around helping students prepare to take part in registering for the spring semester. Current UNI students and peer mentors will be on hand to provide valuable information and personal experiences revolving around registering for classes. The event series will continue until Nov. 13 with plans to take place every Friday of the spring semester as well.