Students back at USU, breathe life into valley

All campus dorm rooms are full – which hasn’t always been true in recent years — and with 1700 freshmen involved in last week’s “Connections” course for new students, the mood was upbeat Monday with the first day of classes at Utah State University.Overseeing much of the activity this first week of school is USU’s new Vice President for Student Services, Dr. James Morales, who worked in enrollment management and student services at the University of Minnesota and is in his third month on campus.He said the Connections Course allows new students the chance to come to campus a few days before classes start to give them a leg up as they move into their first semester. Friday night there were hundreds of these students all throughout downtown Logan as part of Connections.”Many of the businesses along Main Street opened up and invited students in for an evening of dinner treats and refreshments and music, as well,” said Dr. Morales. “It’s really nice to see Logan area vendors and businesses open up their doors and welcome our new students with open arms.”The extra days on campus for Connections allowed the new Aggie students to get to know the services at USU, find out where their classes are located, meet some of their professors and make the transition easier in preparing for the first day.Monday was also the first day of the “Week of Welcome” or WOW.”There are a variety of events and activities designed to help them connect again with their fellow classmates and student leaders,” said Morales. “The week is designed to help them transition into their academic routine and also getting a chance to connect with the services and individuals and organizations that will be supportive of their academics.”Official enrollment numbers aren’t available until the 15th days of classes, but there is reason for optimism.”Things are looking promising,” said Morales. “We had a really good recruiting year. A strong indicator of fall enrollment is the number of students signed up to live on campus and those numbers have been tracking really strong over the summer.”A variety of offices, most of them located in the Taggart Student Center, comprise campus student services.”In this office we want to do everything we can to enable students to succeed,” said Dr. Morales. “My job is to make sure all of those services are geared to provide the right support in the right way and at the right time.”Studies across the country indicate the importance of students becoming “engaged” and involved the first six weeks on campus.”The likelihood they will continue here beyond their freshman year is increased quite a bit,” said Dr. Morales. “That’s why we feel these activities at the beginning of the semester are very critical.”

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