On Iowa! aims to improve freshman experience


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The University of Iowa incoming freshmen will receive more than just free food coupons to local eateries as they step onto campus. This year, university officials are providing ways for the new students to get more information on college life and the university through a new program, On Iowa.

The three-day program gives students opportunities to participate in a variety of activities with small groups and have the chance to attend numerous campus-sponsored events. Over the course of the program, officials said, students will get the opportunity to meet other freshmen during games, small-group sessions, and a scavenger hunt.

On Iowa is an extension from the two-day summer Orientation incoming freshmen attend to help with their transition to college life, said Susan Hansen, a co-head of the On Iowa program. The $250 acceptance fee for all incoming students covered the program's cost, she said.

Normally, the income from the acceptance fees is divided among Orientation, Financial Aid, and advising services, said Michael Barron, the assistant provost for Admissions.

Hansen said officials noted a huge body of national research that showed extensive orientation programs helped improve incoming students achieve success. Efforts to reach out to freshmen and improve retention were also addressed in the university's 2008 Strategic Plan.

"We've been working on this program for a year along with thousands of people on campus that are going above and beyond what they're normally doing," Hansen said. "It's been a great thing for us to see how the campus has embraced and welcomed students in this new way, and we're really excited about it."

The program will kick off at Kinnick Stadium on Friday and end with a block party at UI President Sally Mason's home on Aug. 21.

UI sophomore Shabana Sidhu said she wished she had had the same opportunity as an incoming freshman.

"For me the two- or three-day Orientation was so fast, and everything felt like it was being piled onto your shoulders, and you didn't have a chance to breathe," she said. "It felt like you were taking it all in at once."

Students will have the opportunity to participate in a multitude of activities aimed at acquatinting them with the area, including a coffeehouse crawl, running, walking, and biking tours, and an open house of some of the UI colleges.

"On Iowa is meant to address things students are still worried about," Hansen said. "Making friends, getting involved, how they can succeed academically, and what they're going to do in large lecture and small discussion."

Numerous events and activities will be held, such as a performance by White Panda DJ in addition to late-night movies and excursions. Other activities were held Wednesday and will be held today, and 184 student leaders will direct small groups throughout the activities.

"I feel like [On Iowa] will be extremely beneficial," said Allison Thompson, an incoming freshman. "It's a way to get me excited about college instead of going straight to school and starting classes. I'm hoping it will get me pumped and that I'll meet a lot of new people."

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