New retreat aims to help transfer students

By Teagan Vogel

In an effort to help transfer students make a smoother transition to the University, New Student Programs created a transfer student retreat.

The Guiding Resilient Illinois Transfer Students, or G.R.I.T., Retreat held on March 6 was aimed at giving students the opportunity to learn more about the University, meet other students and get tips on career fairs.

The event was held by New Student Programs, which provides resources for first-year, international and transfer students.

Lizette Dorantes is the assistant director of New Student Programs, NSP — which provides resources for first-year, international and transfer students — and oversees the program.

Dorantes said initiatives like G.R.I.T. are intended to expand NSP services.

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This year was the retreat’s first, and although 30 students registered only eight students actually attended.

To deal with the low turnout, NSP is contacting students who registered to understand why they didn’t attend and how to increase attendance for next year.

“In the future, we would like to be able to adjust to have the optimal — the most number of students that we can possibly have,” Dorantes said.

Additionally, Dorantes said NSP is trying to improve its ability to help transfer students by talking with focus groups and conducting surveys. The organization is trying to learn what students find most helpful and then create that through programs.

G.R.I.T. is facilitated and organized by a group of students — who have been at the University for one to two semesters — called the Illini Transfer Ambassadors.

The day retreat started out with icebreakers, and then a low ropes course which encouraged team work. The activities throughout the day helped to to build communication and leadership skills, Dorantes said.

Students also received advice for the upcoming career fair.

“Each of the students was asked to bring their resumé to the program as well because we had The Career Center after lunch provide a workshop on resumé building,” Dorantes said.

Jacob Custer, junior in LAS, transferred from Harper Community College in fall 2015 said he wished the retreat had been available when he started at the University.

“One challenge I suppose I have faced transferring to U of I is the sheer size,” Custer said.

He said he believes having programs based on “transportation, map (orientation), street-learning” would be useful in adapting to campus.

Although Custer had not heard about the G.R.I.T Retreat before, he said that he is glad that it and other programs of its kind are around.

“As a transfer student, you are tasked with catching up to the rest of your peers who have always been at U of I one or two years longer than you,” Custer said.

He added these programs could help students reach the level of campus knowledge that other students have built up over time more quickly.

In coming years, the G.R.I.T. Retreat will continue to take place and possibly expand its reach next fall.

Dorantes said the group will hold an off-campus camp similar to the March retreat in September and again in the spring semester as well.

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