A virtual warm welcome to incoming first-generation Promise Scholars

The Office of Academic Support (OAS) recently hosted its annual UF Connect event, formerly known as the Transition Orientation Program, for incoming UF freshmen. For more than 20 years, OAS has played a pivotal role in providing a successful transition to college for UF Promise program participants and incoming first-generation students during the Summer B semester.

UF Connect welcomed 276 students in a three-day virtual event that created a sense of community and belonging for participants, provided direct access to college advising liaisons through academic support groups, and connected students to campus resources and student organizations.

“Connect itself is designed to inspire and welcome the incoming freshman,” said OAS Director Angeleah Browdy. “It gives everyone a sense of community as they enter into the University of Florida. The transition for new students can be intimidating, and we want to be able to alleviate that the best we can.”

On the first day, the students were introduced to the OAS team. Students were separated into breakout rooms where they participated in interactive icebreakers and had the opportunity to meet with OAS Peer Leaders. The rooms were filled with excitement as students met like-minded individuals and budding friendships began to bloom.

Students also heard a keynote address from Caleb Chambliss, an AIM alumnus who recently graduated from UF’s counselor education program. Caleb reminded the students about the importance of grit, its connection to their college success, and overall life. Students also learned that “Majors Do Not Equal Career,” from the Career Connection Center’s Jessica Phillipe and UF Greek Life from the Office of Sorority & Fraternity Affair’s Ashley Cofield.

On the second day, students participated in campus departmental resource sessions led by Beth Roland of the Disability Resource Center and Shinlay Rivera and JD Wright of the UF Counseling & Wellness Center. They also learned the importance of “Finding Their Purpose” from Noble Sheep LLC, an organization founded by UF alumni Ashley Pollas and Jose Alvarez. They later gained insight from UF alumni and current students on how to navigate UF.

On day three, the students received a warm welcome from Angela Lindner, associate provost for undergraduate affairs. Lindner shared stories about her experience as a woman pursuing an engineering degree in 1979 as well as other stories and experiences that fueled her passion to fight for underrepresented students.

“They did their best to try to get me to quit engineering. They did not believe women should be engineers. I refused to let them see me fail that way, but oh, I failed alright,” Lindner said. “They tried to fail me with unfair grading that I could not contest, but ultimately I prevailed and graduated with the help of an empathetic faculty member.”

Lastly, the students were split into groups to hear from speakers representing various colleges at UF, after which they participated in a Virtual Student Organization Fair that featured the Black Student Union, the Hispanic Student Association, the Asian American Student Union, the Pride Student Union, the Women’s Student Association, the Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students, the University Gospel Choir and many others.

To learn more about the OAS, please visit https://oas.aa.ufl.edu/.

Story by David Buttrick