USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes students with mixer; more events set

Students and faculty enjoyed a Week of Welcome mixer on Monday. Photo by Krista Schrock.

Students and faculty enjoy a Week of Welcome mixer on Monday.                                          Photo by Krista Schrock

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 25, 2015) – An Information Technology student from Lincoln, Neb., Stephen Bui came to USF Sarasota-Manatee because of its small class sizes and proximity to family in Manatee County.

“There wasn’t another place I wanted to go to that was this close to home,” said Bui, who spent part of his childhood in Bradenton before moving to Nebraska for high school. He now lives in Parrish.

The incoming freshman was among hundreds of students, staff and faculty who crowded the Information Commons area on Monday for a two-hour faculty-student mixer to kick off the 2015 fall semester.

Students and faculty enjoyed chicken sandwiches and mingled outside the refurbished study area on the rotunda’s second floor where over the summer crews dismantled a wall separating the area from the rest of Information Commons.

Replacing the wall with a glass partition opened the area to more light and created an inviting space. Other changes included adding an S-shaped couch, multiple tables and chairs and private-study carrels equipped with flat-screen computer monitors and keyboards.

Bui, who was just getting to know the campus, said he liked the relaxed setting and flexible registration process that allowed him to take a mix of online and in-person classes. Registration will continue throughout the week. Enrollment numbers will be finalized by the end of the week, although early indications point to higher enrollment of full-time students this academic year. Last fall saw 1,917 full-time students at USFSM, a 1.6-percent increase from 2013.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air compared to high school,” Bui said. “In a way, I’m glad to be back in school. The campus is small but I really like it here. Everybody is friendly.”

Psychology student Hannah Veitkus, 20, of Venice said she’s happy to be returning as well, although she admitted to having mixed feelings on coming back.

A member of USFSM’s first freshman class three years ago, Veitkus is entering her senior year. She said she’s looking forward to graduation but will miss USFSM. She said she plans to take a year off after graduation then return to school to pursue a master’s degree in psychology.

“I feel kind of sentimental,” she said. “It’s hard not to love this place. It will be hard to leave.”

A student Ambassador, Veitkus spent four hours Monday – the fall semester’s first full day – fielding questions and guiding freshmen and other newcomers around campus.

This past summer, Veitkus worked as a lifeguard and youth counselor for seven weeks at Camp Kingston, about a half-hour south of Boston. “I really love working with kids,” she said.

Another returning student Taylor Greenan said she spent the summer interning for Sarasota County. Specifically, she worked with code officers to enforce beach-lighting rules. Residences and businesses near the beach are required to follow outdoor lighting regulations after 4 p.m. for sea turtles’ protection.

“I loved it,” Greenan, a biology student, said. “It was important because turtles, nesting turtles and adults, are drawn to white light. They think it’s the moon and they will go toward the light thinking they’re going back to the water.”

Greenan said she’s eager to return to her studies, though.

Several other “Week of Welcome” events are planned throughout the week.

Among them, the Student Lounge will hold “Taco Tuesday” from noon to 2 p.m. and on Wednesday the Student Engagement Office will hold an Open House from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at its offices at room A110.

Local businesses that support USF Sarasota-Manatee are scheduled to stop by the rotunda on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to meet with students.

Later Thursday, a giant inflatable water slide will be set up in the Courtyard as chefs fire up the barbecue grill. Sand volleyball matches will be held as well.

Check for more Week of Welcome events.