Not just a number

Illustration by Doug Fuchs

Virginia Commonwealth University has welcomed its largest freshmen class for the 2015-2016 school year. Admitting about 4,050 freshmen, 1/3 of those being first-generation students, making VCU’s total number of students 31,500 students. That is a lot of people on one campus.

In 2012 I transferred from Norfolk State University. I was extremely overwhelmed by the number of people on campus. Coming from a smaller school you greeted the same people every day even if you didn’t know their names,

I personally appreciated the quaintness of my colleges. I am quite often described as shy and quiet, so it was much easier to meet and get to know people around campus and even easier to know when something was happening on campus. My first year as a college student was so much fun because there was always something to do. And then I got to VCU.

Welcome Week was the highlight of my transfer experience. Thank goodness I knew someone who already attended the school, otherwise I would have been a little loner. Yet even Welcome Week didn’t measure up to the experience I had as a freshman at Norfolk State.

As time progressed, campus got more boring and more overwhelming: too many students in one class, too many students walking through Shafer Street, too many students walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk. It was all just too much! Except the diversity — that was great! That was about two years ago.

There are 2,125 transfer students at VCU. Now the question is, will they last? After two years at VCU, I noticed a tremendous difference in the number of students walking around campus in fall semester and those during spring semester. There were significantly fewer students around campus than the semester before.

I could only wonder what happen to everyone. Before I started doing some digging, I assumed it was simply because the academia of VCU was too hard for students. Now that seemed plausible for me and my friends as we had discussed numerous times wanting to drop out because we felt like we could not succeed here.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones to feel this way. VCU has been struggling to increase their retention rate. They were recently awarded a five-year $1.1 million federal grant from TRIO Student Support Services to increase second and third-year retention rates and fourth-year graduation rates. The program is intended to reduce student loan debt and enhance personal finance knowledge for low-income individuals, first-generation students and students with disabilities.

An article on VCU’s news website says that “the goals will be achieved through personal coaching and financial planning services, tutoring, financial aid workshops and academic and non-cognitive skills assessments.”

In order for these goals to be successful, VCU needs to get in touch with its students on a more personal level. Yes, I chose to attend a large university, but I also don’t want to be just a number. I find it ridiculous that I was welcomed during my orientation with the statement that your V-number is your identity, not you name. I would like to known by name by all of my teachers. How else can they ensure my success?

There are a ton of services that students are unaware of. VCU has three different career centers that assist students with exploring career interests, job and internship searches, resume and cover letter development, interview preparation, networking skills and exploring graduate study.

VCU says they are concerned with student success and offer multiple services to better that success. However, if no one knows about it, it doesn’t count.

Every once in awhile, you will see a representative come into the classroom and talk about a new student organization or study abroad program. There should be one of these representatives in classrooms throughout the year reminding students of all the different services provided by VCU.

I would love for all of VCU’s students to succeed as they go through their academic career. With the right tools provided equally to all students, there should be no reason why VCU’s goals can’t be achieved.

Opinion Editor, Monica Houston

_MG_8104 (2)Monica is a transfer student from Norfolk State University studying English. Her dog, Furby, is an in-office celebrity and frequently attends production and meetings with Monica.

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