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First-year students get first-class support

A new office on campus is gearing up to get students used to college life.

That office – New Student Connections – is helping first-year and transfer students make the transition to USF life by directing students to campus activities and organizations this semester, continuing the office’s mission when it began in the summer of 2007.

NSC’s role predominately includes telling students where they can go to get the help they need. So, if a student needs academic help, NSC may recommend the student to a tutor or a tutoring service. If a student feels sick, NSC would refer him Student Health Services.

Office director Keri Riegler said USF receives roughly 11,000 first-year and transfer students each year, and in such a large university setting, many tend to get lost or confused.

“New students are sometimes a neglected group,” Riegler said, “and all those hard things that are difficult to navigate can really make it frustrating if you don’t have someone that can help you along the way.”

That is where New Student Connections comes in, she said. The office works year-round to provide new students with tools and resources not only to acclimate them to the university setting, but also to help them find their places within the community.

“The ultimate goal is to create programs and services in a climate and culture for new students where they really feel welcome and connected to the institution,” said Riegler. “We want to help students so that they make a choice to stay here at USF because they have had positive experience during their first year.”

Riegler said the office was born out of a decision by both the student and academic affairs offices to focus on supporting students once they enter the University.

“We’ve done a great job getting them ready to be USF students, but how do we help them once they become USF students?” she said. “I kind of try to think of it as like that parent they don’t have while they are here, or that support – that network of people they can go to when they have questions.”

The issues and concerns that the spring semester warrants can be very different from those of the fall, said Riegler. Whereas the first semester for new students is about understanding and transitioning into college, the second semester is about getting involved and making ties to the University.

“Getting involved, to me, is having a connection to the institution and saying, ‘This is my school.’ That is a totally different level,” she said. “Finding that is critical to having a great college experience.”

After its first three months, Riegler said the office has been successful.

“The feedback has been great about the office,” she said, “and I think as we’re able to offer more, then we will certainly have more people utilizing our office and taking advantage of the services.”

Nadine Foxworth, a junior transfer student majoring in medical technology, said her interaction with NCS led her to work with her peers on the NCS Homecoming float, which she described as the experience of a lifetime.

“They got me involved with the school in ways I would have never been able to do on my own,” she said. “They have filled me with school spirit and I really appreciate all they do.”

Experiences like Foxworth’s are exactly what NSC is striving to achieve, Riegler said.

“A person who participated in an activity and felt more connected – that is exactly what we are here to do,” she said. “Those are the success stories.”

Other universities in the Florida State University System have similar offices and programs in place, including the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. While USF’s office is new, Riegler said it will continue to grow and add more services to its repertoire, including peer-to-peer advising, student workshops and mentoring programs.

“On a smaller scale, there have certainly been a lot of successes – not as many and not to the extent that I would love to have, but it’s also a program that’s building,” she said. “Hopefully students will take advantage of the office and know that there is a group of people here whose goal is strictly to support, answer questions and direct them.”

The office of New Student Connections is located in resident hall suite RAR 234, which they share with the office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. For more information on NSC and its services, visit