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OnIowa grows in fourth year

BY KAITLIN DEWULF | AUGUST 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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An influx of transfer-student involvement and more participation from freshmen can be credited for the growth in OnIowa traditions this year, officials said.

The University of Iowa incoming class of 2018 — made up of 4,650 new students — had increased attendance, while the number of volunteers for the program has grown to more than 600 from around 450 last year.

With overall involvement of more than 5,200 students and volunteers, this was the best year for the program since its inception.

The biggest change for 2014 OnIowa was the inclusion of transfer students to the small-group experience, said Kathryn Sojka, the UI director of academic support and new student initiatives.

Last year, transfer students were invited to participate in the large events, but including them in small-group activities brought 270 more.

“We know transfer students are bringing a good set of skills and experiences from their former institutions,” Sojka said. “But we want to continue and expand on their collegiate experience and offer them the best transition into the UI community.”

Sojka said she and other activity facilitators for OnIowa are happy with the turnout for the wide range of activities this year.

“[We] are pleased with the number of new students who are out exploring different events and making connections with other people and resources that match their needs,” she said.

The events sponsored by OnIowa spanned from Aug. 20 to Sunday and featured activities such as academic workshops, Convocation, and Kickoff at Kinnick.

During OnIowa, students build connections with each other, learn about UI history and traditions, and become familiar with expectations, in order to help ease their transition from high school to college life.

“OnIowa provides a comprehensive introduction to university life,” Sojka said. “Including the skills necessary to be a successful UI student in and beyond the classroom.”

Sojka said even the optional events, which include game and movie nights as well as the Target Takeover, experienced a jump in student participation. She attributed this expansion to feedback by former incoming freshmen and intentionally varying the optional program offerings to meet more students’ interests and requests.

“OnIowa did help ease my transition,” UI freshman Alexandra Doner said. “It was great to have an OnIowa leader to ask questions to about classes and the campus in general.”

Not only did the freshman participation numbers rise, volunteer numbers grew as well.

“There are about 200 upper-class students who fill the OnIowa leader role,” Sojka said. “They are the heart of the program by being genuinely interested and excited in helping new students.”

UI sophomore Daniel Stolley, an OnIowa group leader, said the increase in student participation made the OnIowa program more enjoyable for the upperclassmen leaders who volunteered.

He said it can be difficult to get some students invested in the program and numerous activities that coincide with it.

The way Stolley said he overcame this challenge was to focus his energy on the students who didn’t deem themselves “too cool” and channel it instead toward to the students who were excited to learn about what it means to be a Hawkeye.

“Some of the incoming freshmen are still in the same mentality from their senior year of high school, and it’s hard for them to go from the top tier back to the bottom,” he said.


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