By Leah Jones, Features Editor
It is no secret that new students can feel disoriented, lost in a labyrinth, complete with a roaring minotaur for their first few weeks at a new school. Thankfully, the University of Missouri – St. Louis’ Winter Expo connected students with organizations like New Student Programs, which handed out maps to help students navigate UMSL and their new campus like Theseus.
The Winter Expo featured booths for many of UMSL’s organizations across campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on January 18, on the second floor rotunda of the Millennium Student Center. The event aimed to connect new and returning students with different organizations to help connect them both socially and academically on campus.
Sara Ricardez, senior, biotechnology and biochemistry, and Luimil Negrón, graduate, education, and graduate assistant for Latino Recruitment and Retention, drew students to the Hispanic and Latino Association’s (HISLA) table with their bright and welcoming grins. Ricardez said, “We are the Hispanic Latino Association and we want to get to know all the Hispanic people here. We also want other people who are outside of the Latino community to know more about Latinos, our culture, our costumes, and everything.”
The diverse organization includes many international students and athletes. They also host different events throughout the semester, inviting students from outside of the Spanish-speaking community to come and learn about the rich and multiple Hispanic and Latino culture. During the fall semester, they hosted an event for the Day of The Dead, complete with an altar and paper flowers. In March, the group will host a Salsa Dance night. Spanish-speakers of all levels can also come together for Spanish days, during which native-speakers and those who are just learning to speak Spanish can practice speaking.
“It’s really about sharing what we have to offer. It’s about sharing, and building a community so that our students can get help in many different areas,” Negrón said.
While organizations like HISLA introduce students to some of the diversity on UMSL’s campus, Nate Daugherty, one of the study abroad coordinators at USML, spoke with students about studying in some of those diverse places. With over 100 programs in 45 different countries across all six populated continents, UMSL students of all majors have the opportunity to earn credit for their degrees by taking courses abroad in both English and in foreign languages. The programs vary in length, from two to four weeks programs, to semester and year-long programs.
Daugherty said that students pay the same tuition rate and can use the same financial aid to fund these trips. However, there are extra scholarships available for students who apply to go to some of the more unique destinations. While some of the most popular destinations are places like London, Spain, Ireland, and Japan, Daugherty said that they are promoting destinations in Eastern Europe and Latin America. “Everybody says western Europe. Everybody wants to go to Britain or France,” he said. “But there’s really some unique opportunities in places like Latvia, or Hungary, or Uruguay, that students don’t necessarily think of first, but are really cool places to go. So, we incentivize that with a little bit of extra cash, on top of other scholarships.”
“It [studying abroad] is something everybody should do, for personal growth, for academic growth, for professional growth,” Daugherty continued.
Students could also grow and make connections by joining one of the Greek organizations on campus. Alpha Sigma Phi, the Theta Nu chapter at UMSL, is a new fraternity on campus. Though the organization began recruiting over the summer, they officially joined the ranks of UMSL’s Greek Life last November.
“Everything that you see in Hollywood about fraternities; we’re absolutely the opposite,” said Haris Musanovic, sophomore, marketing. “We have a strict no-hazing policy. We promote being a gentleman scholar of all things, and we hold five values dear to our hearts that we will not stray from. Most importantly, we look for the best men on campus, people who want to be successful and well-rounded as a man.”
The group members value charity, silence, honor, purity, and patriotism, according to Musanovic. He highlighted the organization’s hope to give back the UMSL’s campus and the fact that students who join in the upcoming fall semester will be considered founding fathers of the organization. “It’s going to be something that we form together. We are going to create a new experience for the students. That way we can really create great gentlemen and make the world a better place,” Musanovic said. “If you see yourself as a gentlemen and a scholar, and you always want to better yourself as a man, we are the place to come to because that’s exactly the kind of people that we’re looking for and the kind of men that we help and support”
The Winter Expo gave students the opportunity to develop relationships and connect with many organizations across campus, including, but not limited to cultural organizations, academic opportunities and programs, and, ironically, Greek Life, in order to find their way in the labyrinth of people, places, and activities at the beginning of the semester. Though the students did not use actual string like Theseus, the connections that they made with these organizations will hopefully guide them through their time at UMSL.
For more information on HISLA, visit orgsync.com/73977/chapter. For more information about study abroad programs, visit studyabroad.umsl.edu/. For more information on Alpha Sigma Phi, visit orgsync.com/152738/chapter.