Cougar First Impressions makes an impression
Many UH attendees can remember feeling the first-day-of-college confusion concerning everything from finding the right building to figuring out where to buy books. It’s hard, especially with a campus as big and dynamic as UH. Thankfully, there were small stands dotted along the sidewalks to help point Cougars in the right direction and hand them a water bottle or two.
That helpful guidance can be attributed to UH’s Cougar First Impressions, organized since 1998 on the first two days of the fall semester each year with the goal of helping each new student’s transition into campus life an easy one.
“New students are not familiar with the UH campus,” explained CFI Co-Chair Elsie Myers. “So by creating a sense of community among staff, faculty and students, we assist new students by helping them get to their class location. We also provide information regarding any topic that a new student may have questions about such as parking, Cougar Card access and financial aid.”
Students prove to benefit from this project.
“It is very helpful, especially with the water because it is hot the first week of school,” said senior Jasmine Berry. “I remember I had a class in the Cameron building and I was on the opposite side of campus. So they showed me exactly where to go and how to get there the quickest way.”
The CFI staff is mostly comprised of UH volunteers, and they dedicate their time to man the 20 stands stationed around campus the first two days of the fall semester.
“Typically we have up to 400 staff that volunteer for this annual event. Several faculty members will volunteer their time, too,” Myers said.
Each of the staff members attends a brief training session a couple of weeks prior to the event where they learn about the information they relay to inquiring students, the procedures of the event and receive staff t-shirts so that they are easily identifiable to anyone who needs assistance.
“We’ve provided volunteers with specific customer-service training with examples of being pro-active in greeting students, offering donated goodies, etcetera,” said CFI Co-Chair Troy Christensen. “Staff members also learn a lot about campus by looking up information or calling home base to answer student questions.”
When it comes time for the actual event, each of the staff members is assigned a two-hour shift scheduled between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. during which they pass out maps, water bottles, and what Myers refers to as hot items — flash drives, pens, and highlighters — and explain to students where various buildings are located.
The UH community encourages students to participate as volunteers for CFI. The organization plans a volunteer luncheon as reward for the volunteers dedicating their hard work and helpful advising. Volunteering not only benefits incoming undergraduates with the same opportunity UH students were given, but gives volunteers an opportunity that is relatively simple and that does not take up a significant amount of time. A mere two hours of one knowledgeable student’s time could mean the difference between a freshman’s exciting first day and a disaster of complete confusion.