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OUS says #039;Welcome to college#039; to area students

Because the first year of college can be stressful, the faculty at Ohio University Southern hopes to help incoming students adjust to a college atmosphere long before classes ever begin.

The university hosted its second all-day orientation Thursday for about 100 students from across the Tri-State, said Dr. Kim Lawson, director of enrollment services.

The primary goals of the event are to help students, most of whom are recent high school graduates, get acquainted with each other and the faculty, to help them become familiar with the campus and the resources the university provides, to provide academic advising and register them for classes, Lawson said.

"We really try, in orientation, to build a sense of community," she said. "If a student feels like they belong, feels like they fit in, then their comfort level rises and it is a great predictor that they will stay here."

Interest is high, with the first session this summer being much larger than expected with about 119 students, she said.

Two more all-day orientations will be hosted in August, as well as a few of evening sessions that are condensed for non-traditional and transfer students.

Last year, OUS had a student body of about 5,545 students with 604 of these being new or non-traditional returning students. Lawson hopes for 700 to 750 this year, she said. The fall quarter begins in September.

During their lunch break, the students got a chance to enjoy a cookout by the faculty and get information about all 29 student organizations and athletic groups.

"This really gives the students a chance to interact with each other outside the formal setting," Lawson said. "The nicest thing the lunch does is it gives a chance for them to know us for who we are, not what we do."

Occupational therapy major Lee Ann Ball of Ironton said she was a little nervous about attending college until she came to the orientation.

"I have lived here all my life but never been here that much. It really got me familiar with the campus life and how I will fit into it," she said. "The staff has really made an effort and introduced themselves. It has really helped me feel comfortable and at home."

Jason Rice, 22, of Ashland, Ky.,

who plans to major in education also said he was impressed with the friendly environment.

"The main reason I came was so I do not feel overwhelmed that first week. Now that I know my way around I have got a head start," he said. "I am ready to start right now. With the small campus and small student-to-teacher ratio, I feel like part of a family."

Parents who attended the orientation said the program benefited them as well.

Crown City resident Patricia Burriss came to orientation with her son Patrick, a recent Fairland High School graduate.

As her first visit to the southern campus,

she said the orientation has helped give her all the information she needs for her and her son to prepare for college.

"I think it has been wonderful. It has been very informative," she said. "I loved the tour."

Lawson said it is important to get the parents involved right from the start.

"It is always exciting to see the parents come," she said. "It speaks of their commitment and is a good indication that students have the support needed to be successful in college."

On Aug. 25, all incoming freshmen will have the opportunity to meet the dean and take a one-hour seminar from a group representing Monster.com about how to be successful in college.

According to the Ohio Board of Regents Web site, Ohio is ranked 39th in the country for bachelor's degree attainment.

Despite these figures, OUS continues to expand.

"We are just thrilled. It speaks well of the community," Lawson said of the increased enrollment. "Ohio has a low college attendance rate but, we continue to grow by leaps and bounds."