When UT announced the shift to online classes and the closure of residence halls, many students were left with unanswered questions and unsolved problems. Neuroscience sophomore Briana Syed decided to create a website to help ease these uncertainties.
Along with public health junior Tuka Uzor, Syed co-created HERE4UT, a website dedicated to consolidating resources for UT students. The duo wanted the website to be accessible to those who traveled home, but especially to students still in Austin, Uzor said.
“I was fortunate enough to have financial support from my parents, but it did make me think about other students who might be stranded here in Austin like me but might not have any financial, social or mental support from anyone,” Uzor said.
Uzor said she was able to find resources that helped her locate food and job opportunities. She said she wanted to share those with others who might be in a similar situation.
“I wanted to spread that resource to other students, especially students that stayed back in Austin who don't have family who live in the United States or family who don't live near the area,” Uzor said. “Just kind of having that familial support, like, ‘We got you. We're trying to help you.’”
The duo saw a lack of information from UT, which pushed them to take matters into their own hands, Syed said.
“If the University is not going to foster this environment, then you know we have to take the lead on that because we are, at the end of the day, we are the students of the University, and the impact that we have on it and each other can be more influential than what the University does for us,” Syed said.
In a time when the student body is spread out and the future is uncertain, Syed said it was important to the pair that the website also created a sense of community among UT. HERE4UT has a list of resources for students about various subjects, such as COVID-19 testing and mental health care. A forum page covers entertainment recommendations and health and well-being, among other topics.
“Our goal is to create a centralized platform to consolidate all types of resources in and outside of academia for students, ranging from food to jobs to testing, you know, physical and mental health,” Syed said. “We felt like this was a time that with coronavirus going on, our student population needed more than ever a place where we can support our community and have a sense of unity.”
Psychology sophomore Azzurra Demarie said she’s used the website and appreciates that it was made by students. She said this allows the website to better meet the needs of students who understand their position.
“It's definitely very important to have things for students made by students because they definitely have the students’ best interests in mind,” Demarie said. “It might be a little harder to really see eye to eye when you're a professor or just someone in the department because you just don't live that same life.”