Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

You made the right choice

Elizabeth Banda

UT was my number one choice for graduate studies. As an applicant, my graduate team was eager to help me navigate the return to the academic world. From the start, my interactions with UT showed that I was supported and respected by my school. 

A welcoming team that makes you feel like their number one draft pick solidifies that you are making the right decision in committing to their school. It’s easy to lose track of past successes and individuality when engaging with an unfamiliar environment, but a strong welcome team can help alleviate the strain of the transition and create a sense of belonging.

Universities tend to state that student support is a vital pillar of their organization. Few, however, do more than merely advertise the services offered at their respective campuses. UT puts time and effort into making sure students feel empowered and want to give back. 

UT’s welcome committee strives to extend support for new students from orientation and into the following semesters. 

At the start of the school year, Longhorn Welcome introduces new students to campus, but the support for new students doesn’t stop there. Bevo Buddy! is a yearlong program that pairs incoming freshmen with a UT student leader that has a similar path of study. 

Kayleigh Damphousse is the UT assistant director for transition initiatives and oversees Longhorn Welcome and the Bevo Buddy! Program, which is approaching its second year.

“(The program is) a quick friend and a quick connection,” Damphousse said. “We try to pair people based on college or other identities that they hold so that students can feel like they’re meeting someone immediately and get that sense of belonging and connection to UT and to campus, so they don’t feel as overwhelmed by everything that college has to offer.”

Jillian Chacon, an exercise science sophomore, participated in Bevo Buddy! as a freshman. 

“It is just this great program where you get to connect with not only a mentor, but other individuals,” Chacon said. 

As a sophomore, Chacon will be a Bevo Buddy! leader to help make a difference in the transition experiences of others.

“I’ve been sharing (Bevo Buddy!) around Sunnyvale with the people that I know that are going (to UT) next year,” Chacon said. “I’ve been telling people to join.”

A sense of belonging into a new community reduces students’ loneliness and mental health struggles. Frequent gatherings with a seasoned student can make an incoming freshman feel connected to people and groups on campus. Experienced students can help navigate dining options, introduce new study spots and recommend professors or courses that could be a good fit. 

“We’re really trying to curate that connection with a student leader with a new student because that is so important to have someone rooting for you in your corner,” Damphousse said. 

When a university’s newcomers are well-received, there’s a higher level of motivation to succeed and contribute to the campus.  

In my short time at UT, I have felt appreciated as an individual and my family has felt that impact from the engagement I have received so far. Just like my husband valued the interaction my graduate coordinator and I shared, many other families seek out the best for their new UT student.

Time and time again UT has reached out to help me get situated on campus, whether it be linking me with potential roommates or sharing graduate student teaching and research opportunities for the following semesters. The University’s commitment to welcoming their students makes me proud to be a Longhorn.

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