Not all butterflies break out easily. It’s common for out-of-state students to struggle with the move, but UT has taken measures to help non-Texans find a place in the longhorn community.
Previously known as the Out of State, Transfer and International Student agency, UT Student Government has given Out of State its very own department, currently directed by sophomore Lexi Darrow. After being established last semester as an independent agency, it’s finally escaped its preparatory period, now hosting a series of programs to assist non-Texan freshmen as they assimilate into the Longhorn community. Last week a workshop was held on campus involvement, graduation and affordable living.
“Having someone who you’re able to relate to, who is also from out of state, they share the same experiences as you,” Darrow said. “That was really helpful for out-of-state students.”
Among the workshop’s speakers, three were out-of-state students themselves — mathematics freshman Andrew Stonebarger, government junior Jennell Benson and sociology senior Harrington McDowelle.
Stonebarger is a member of the Student Ambassador association. His presentation was centered on campus involvement in any of UT’s 1,300 clubs, picking out campus organizations as a key influence on student assimilation.
“It’s a good way to build a community,” Stonebarger said. “Whether it’s student ambassadors or student organizations in general, it’s a really great way to find your niche and find a home as soon as you get here.”
One point of his presentation provided insight on what one could do to promote the school among high school campuses across the country and help make prospective non-Texan horns feel welcome.
He said by speaking with other out-of-state students about school and campus life, one can make a profound difference in how they feel about moving into unfamiliar territory. He plans to travel around his home area, of Syracuse, New York, to speak with high school students about the Longhorn community.
“(We are) just continuing to get the message across that (the) University of Texas is a home for all,” Stonebarger said.
Benson and McDowelle are squad leaders for the Dean of Students’ office, and are in charge of the transfer student lounge. Although transfer student affairs were given a separate student government agency, the groups share some similar conflicts with campus assimilation. Currently there isn’t an out of state department within the Dean of Students office, but student related programs of the sort are regularly added to the list of accommodations.
Overall, these efforts have been set in place to promote out-of-state student involvement, and to provide a community and a resource for incoming students unfamiliar with the Longhorn community.
“This was an event where we wanted students to come in and just here about out-of-state happenings,” Darrow said. “Things that could benefit them.”
But out-of-staters take up about 10 percent of the student body and it can become difficult for the agency to reach the intended audience.
“It’s kind of like finding a needle in a haystack,” Darrow said.
For interested parties, there is an Out of State Student Association that does meetings and social events, and there is an out-of-state mentorship program matching current and incoming out-of-state students. The agency will also host a call project to address questions from recently admitted out-of-state students.
“Working with out-of-state students and in-state students all throughout has changed my life,” Stonebarger said, “(It’s) given me a passion for doing something bigger than myself.”