Huskies Get Connected helps students find their place

One friendly conversation at a time, a team of NIU students helps Huskies Get Connected.

They’re not in it for fanfare, but the work they’re doing to help new students find their place at NIU is invaluable. Run by Student Success Team Members in First- and Second-Year Experience, the Huskies Get Connected program pairs trained undergraduate students with new students for one-on-one consultations.

It’s all about passing along information on student organizations and clubs, campus employment, events, mentorships, service and research opportunities, Greek life, financial aid information, Huskie Link–just about anything. But it’s also about making new students feel at home.

Jenah Anderson

“I try to make it as personal as possible,” said 21-year-old Jenah Anderson of Henry, a Student Success Team Member in her second year of involvement with Huskies Get Connected. “You want the students to feel like they’re making a friend. We really feel like mentors, and we’re there to help them figure things out.”

A senior business management major, Anderson said she remembers feeling overwhelmed as a freshman.

Unlike larger events in which campus resources are provided, Huskies Get Connected is a low-key way for students to learn about all NIU has to offer and to ask questions.

“There is an endless amount of resources they don’t know about,” Anderson said. “I’ve done 20 of these, and every time, at some point, they’re like, ‘I didn’t know that.’ I think it really just helps them figure out what they want to know the most, without all the bells and whistles. We hopefully can give them a little bit of the inside information.”

Jehvania Whyte

Organized this year by Anderson and 22-year-old Jehvania Whyte, a senior communication studies major originally from Jamaica, the program invites new students to rate their interests on a questionnaire and then meet with a Student Success Team Member.

Team members personalize packets of information based on those interests, chat with new students for at least 30 minutes, encourage them to get involved, answer questions and check in on them from time to time.

“You don’t want to be throwing information at them,” said Whyte, who became involved because she regrets not learning more about the resources available during her first two years at NIU.

“I had no friends my first or second year here,” she said. “I had to figure stuff out on my own. I want to reach out to international students, especially, because I know how I struggled when I first got here.”

Since it began in the fall of 2014, Huskies Get Connected has helped at least 15 students a year through one-on-one consultations. The goal is to reach at least 25, “and that would be on the low side,” said Zachery Nielsen, a graduate assistant in First- and Second-Year Experience who helps coordinate the program.

Anderson and Whyte primarily are the main Student Success Team members meeting with new students this fall, but all 11 team members are trained to help Huskies Get Connected.

“I believe Huskies Get Connected is one of the most underrated and useful programs that my office, First- and Second-Year Experience, offers,” Nielsen said. “When I transferred to NIU, I had a hard time acclimating to campus, the surrounding area, and finding my space as a new Huskie. By using Huskies Get Connected I was able to find things that I genuinely am interested in and cultivate a group of friends that I could vibe with.”

For information on Huskies Get Connected or to request an appointment, visit Go.niu.edu/hgc.

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