Finding your way at a big university like the U can feel like trying to sail a sea of information, tasks and deadlines. It’s easy to feel adrift, especially when you’re among a student body of more than 35,000. That’s where U Belong comes in.
An evolution of the Utah Fresh initiative, U Belong is a platform that guides undergraduate students through their college experience and helps them find a sense of belonging. In one central location—the belong.utah.edu website—students and their parents/supporters can find a map of sorts: think checklists, FAQs, student services and important dates, along with ways students can engage with the campus community.
“We’re a big, complex place, so we’re just trying to make it a little easier for students to navigate the University of Utah,” explained Andrea Thomas, chief experience officer at the U. “U Belong is a tool and an approach to help students be successful.”
Belong.utah.edu: A comprehensive guide
From uNIDs to UMail, meal plans to move-in dates, FAFSA to FERPA, students and parents have a lot to keep track of. The belong.utah.edu website simplifies what can be a complicated expedition from this department to that office, consolidating crucial information into one accessible space.
“What we try to do is bridge those gaps between all of the different pieces that parents and students have to navigate,” explained Michelle Thompson, manager of the Office of Student Experience.
The website includes helpful info like the following:
- A checklist for first-year students, beginning with what to do after receiving your acceptance letter
- Important dates and deadlines
- Info about visiting campus or specific colleges
- Webinars that go in depth on need-to-know topics (sample titles: Gaining Utah Residency for Tuition Reduction; Get Move-in Ready)
- First-year student FAQs
- Info about cohort experiences
- A list of campus services and resources
- Housing and meal plan info
- Student events
The website also serves as a central point of contact, with a dedicated email address (email@example.com) and phone number (801-213-1800). Parents and students can also request a virtual appointment.
Friday Night Hype: Fostering campus engagement
Every Friday night that school is in session, students can count on a chance to socialize and have fun through U Belong’s Friday Night Hype events. Silent discos, glow-in-the-dark parties, moonlight snowshoe hikes and masquerade balls are just a glimpse of the entertainment awaiting students, detailed in the Friday Night Hype calendar.
“Belonging to a community is something that students seek when they go away to college,” said Thomas. “We wanted to give them an activity they can count on every Friday night in addition to all the other things happening on campus. It’s a way to build community every week.”
By partnering with Student Affairs, the Union Programming Council, ASUU and other groups on campus, Friday Night Hype offers a variety of events and introduces students to different parts of the U community, explained Thompson. “We’re cultivating opportunities for students to try different things, explore different parts of campus and meet new people.”
Keeping parents and students in the loop
After talking with families at events like orientation and U Family Weekend, Thomas and Thompson said they learned parents want to know more about what’s happening on campus.
“Oftentimes parents kind of feel like they’re out of the loop,” noted Thomas.
The solution: a monthly newsletter, aptly dubbed The Loop. As part of the U Belong initiative, the newsletter gives parents/supporters and students need-to-know info about campus services and resources, important deadlines that are approaching (think tuition due dates, class registration deadlines, etc.), upcoming social events, and topics like housing or financial aid. Anyone interested in receiving the newsletter can sign up here.
Learn more about U Belong at belong.utah.edu.