CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will look to build on its successful retention programs by offering new students a variety of orientation activities this fall designed to introduce them into the campus community and prepare them for what lies ahead.

OSU CONNECT, which begins Wednesday, Sept. 22, is a week of orientation activities and events developed to help new students feel more comfortable at the university. These activities are a blend of academic, campus resource, and community-building programs. They are designed to meet the needs of a wide-range of student groups, including older-than-average, transfer and graduate students, as well as students of color.

"Research has shown that the first year for a student is crucial to their future academic success," said Jennifer Kuzeppa, associate director for new student programs in the Office of Admission & Orientation. "CONNECT provides opportunities for students to connect with faculty, with OSU traditions, with the campus and Corvallis community, and with friends for a lifetime."

Some educators feel failure to establish working relationships with faculty is one cause of student frustration, leading universities to develop orientation programs to increase academic socialization and cut drop-out rates.

CONNECT is one of several programs that has helped OSU make significant gains in keeping freshmen in school. From 1996 to 1998, the percentage of freshmen that have returned to OSU for their sophomore year has increased from 73.8 percent to 78.3 percent. Nationally, freshmen retention rates at four-year public research universities average about 72 percent.

"It is important that we provide a welcoming atmosphere for our new and returning students," Kuzeppa said.

Core activities include a barbecue, a motivational speaker, a new student dance, convocation, a discussion on the ramifications of alcohol use, and a vendor fair. Optional recreational outings range from student gatherings to a float trip on the nearby Willamette River.

"We want to make it fun," Kuzeppa said. "We want students to enjoy their initial experience at the university and we want them to feel good about the beginning of classes."

A full schedule of OSU CONNECT activities is available on the Web at Note to Editors: This story originally contained a World Wide Web address. The characters used in Web addresses will not telecommunicate in our system. Please call us at 541-737-0582 for the address.

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Jennifer Kuzeppa, 541-737-0582