U urges students to get more involved

Molly Moker

Being involved on campus helps the student learning process and increases the likelihood of graduating in four years, University officials said.

The University began offering improved access to academic and extracurricular opportunities this year, Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education said.

Officials are working to improve adviser-student interaction and develop a mandatory new-student weekend for incoming first-year students. An electronic portfolio system is also being created that will allow students to document University records including transcripts, courses and research projects.

Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, said helping students figure out their purpose for being at the University will improve their college experience.

“Our ultimate goal is to help students earlier in their education process,” Rinehart said. “So many students don’t know what they’re doing as seniors, and people should have goals by that time.”

Rinehart said he wants to intensify academic advising during students’ sophomore year, in order to make sure they are on track for the second half of their college education.

In order to showcase accomplishments, grades and successes, Rinehart said the University is working to develop electronic student portfolios. The portfolios are currently available to all University students, but Rinehart said the program is receiving a user-friendly makeover.

Each University student is allotted 20 megabytes of space for saving, organizing, viewing and selectively sharing personal educational records.

Swan said the portfolio will eventually include a graduation planner so students will know exactly what classes they need to complete to graduate.

“It will be like a MapQuest,” Swan said. “It will tell you what you should do and how you can get from here to there.”

Swan said this tool will free up adviser time because students will not be going in just to ask what classes they still need to complete.

Eventually the portfolio will allow students to register without looking up courses, Swan said. Each student’s coursework required for graduation will be listed on his or her portfolio. To register, all students will have to do is click on their remaining courses, he said.

“One button will allow you to register for everything, instead of doing it course by course,” Swan said.

Students will also be able to add PowerPoint presentations or video clips to their portfolios. This would allow students to document any projects or involvements they would like to showcase.

Rinehart said employers and graduate schools will be able to access students’ portfolios to

see what students have accomplished during their time at the University.

Incoming students will learn how to build their portfolios during Welcome Weekend, a mandatory first-year student orientation that will begin in fall 2005. Welcome Weekend will replace the current New Student Weekend, which is optional.

Laura Koch, associate vice provost for first-year programs, said approximately 850 students participate in the optional new student weekend. The program takes students off campus the Thursday and Friday before move-in weekend.

The new Welcome Weekend program will run Wednesday through Saturday before the start of each school year, Koch said. Students will stay on campus and be able to move into their residence halls that Wednesday.

Koch said students will be able to meet with advisers, do community service work and make friends during the program. She said she hopes to bring in popular bands.

Prices are still being negotiated, but Koch said students will have to pitch in for some of the cost. An additional student fee of approximately $125 will be added to their fall accounts to cover the weekend, she said.

Rinehart said the weekend is being instated to make students feel more a part of campus, which will improve retention rates during their sophomore and junior years.

He also said meeting with incoming first-year students right away will help them narrow their educational path.