Laura Gray had been working on an associate degree in engineering at Pima Community College but has since transferred to University of Arizona to study mathematics.
Gray, who eventually wants to pursue studies in engineering, said that while she is eager to start the academic year, she is still trying to acclimate to campus.
Waiting for the student forum to begin at the UA Transfer Student Center on Tuesday, Gray said: "I'm still trying to get my bearings. I wanted to get as much preparation done as possible and get as much help as I could get."
This is where the UA Transfer Student Center stepped in.
Gray – along with more than 160 people – signed up for the center's first transfer-student orientation.
The center, which recently opened its new office at the UA Student Union Memorial Center, held orientation during the first week in August. The sessions were designed to arm students with an expansive amount of information about the UA and its various offices and resources.
The center's staff, who acknowledged that information alone is not enough, designed sessions with a particular focus on teaching students strategies to aid in their social integration and academic success.
For instance, it can be the difference between spending the semester studying alone or figuring out ways to hook into study groups. Or unwittingly believing you have to pay $60 an hour for a tutor versus knowing that Think Tank offers tutoring, many times at no cost.
"When we think about college students, people tend to think of the traditional college student, straight out of high school and living in the residence hall," said Jeanais Brodie, who directs the center, which is part of UA Student Transitions.
But transfer students and non-traditional students represent a rapidly growing student population across the nation, Brodie affirmed.
These students often arrive with their own unique set of circumstances – they may be parents or are caring for other family members; some work one or more jobs, and most commute to campus. These situations, at times, require that students receive additional support and resources to help aid in their academic success.
For that reason, the center serves as an "advocate for transfer students," targeting students in their first year at UA – the critical time for them, Brodie said.
Orientation was infused with crucial information about a range of campus units and their programs and services, technology, events, student organizations, Wildcat traditions and the importance of being respectful and honest members of the scholarly community, it also included training on some important subtitles.
Beyond orientation, the center's 10 outreach coordinators and two graduate assistants will staff its office Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., helping students with issues that arise.
The center targets transfer students in their first year at UA and beyond its student orientation, which is being held through Aug. 5, offers a range of resources and events.
Also, the center supports the UA Transfer Student Association and initiated the first Tau Sigma National Honor Society chapter in Arizona.
Additionally, students can apply for the National Student Exchange program, or NSE. It is a domestic study abroad program, of sorts, allowing students to study at other institutions in the U.S. and its territories or Canada for up to one year at the same price they are paying for their UA tuition.
"We want to make sure the transfer transition goes quickly and as smoothly as possible," said Brodie, who has been working to expand the center since she arrived in 2009. "I am not trying to create another class of students, but our job is to help them to go from transfer student to Wildcat as fast as possible."
Mark Nemecio, who said he was lured to the center by the promise of lemonade and cookies, spent the spring semester in Hawaii, taking courses in business and cultural studies as part of the NSE program.
Nominated for the program by Brodie, Nemecio said he is grateful for the opportunities the center and its connections have afforded him.
"When I came here, I was blown away," said Nemecio, who is studying business management and is a Tau Sigma member. He'd been overwhelmed by the size of the campus and the classes, saying he did not know where to go or what to do until he visited the center.
Another student, Arizona Western College-to-UA transfer student Jasmin Quintana, serves as one of the center's outreach facilitators. She said, above all, new transfer students need as much information possible, but they also need to know how to use it.
"It may be overwhelming, but I've been there," said Quintana, a UA Honors College student studying marketing who plans to graduate from the UA in December. "They need to be able to narrow it down to be able to say, 'OK, this is what I want, so this is what I need to know.'"