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FHSU events make impact

8/21/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

It was his second time around. But Brett Bruner said it was better than the first.

Bruner arrived on the Fort Hays State University campus for a new job in the fall of 2012, just in time for fall orientation.

The newly created position of director of persistence and retention includes leading new FHSU students in the "First Year Experience" initiative, part of the Tiger Impact orientation program.

After four years as director of student life at Baker University in Baldwin City, Bruner hit the ground running at FHSU, participating in events that encompass pre-enrollment through a four-day fall orientation period.

"Research shows that the first four weeks are crucial for our students' success," Bruner said, adding FHSU's Augustfest events provide such activities through the end of the month and into September.

"If we can get (students) more familiar with organizations and people on campus, we're more likely to retain those students," Bruner said.

If the first week on campus is any indication, FHSU's graduating class of 2017 could be a whopper.

This year's orientation period brought out more students than ever before.

Hundreds of students filled Lewis Field Stadium for an activity called PlayFair at the end of move-in day Thursday.

Approximately 835 freshman then attended Friday morning's orientation presentation in Sheridan Hall, where they learned about academic expectations, campus services and a variety of other information about FHSU. They continued to participate in activities through the weekend,

The "First Year Experience" initiative also includes a program for transfer students called "TRANSFERmation."

David Bartlett, a transfer from Cowley Community College in Arkansas City, missed some of TRANSFERmation events because of another commitment. So he attended some of the freshman events, including PlayFair, a get-to-know-others event put on by a company from California that travels to college campuses as part of student orientation programs.

Students were called down from the stands at Lewis Field Stadium to form a long line around the field, and they met a lot of new people as the PlayFair representative led through various games and activities.

"It was nice to see (hundreds) of people in the same place as me, all of us going away from home for the first time," Bartlett said. "None knew very many people, and it was a great way to meet others."

Bruner estimated between 600 and 700 students participated in PlayFair this year.

"I think it helped me a lot," meeting new people, said David Nitsch, a freshman from Burlington, Colo. "Plus, it was a lot of fun."

Bartlett said he "was set on Fort Hays since my junior year in high school," but decided to save money by living at home and attending Cowley for his first two years of college.

"A Fort Hays rep had come to my high school, and they showed me the communication disorders program," he said. "And I fell in love with Fort Hays' program."

Bartlett said another factor of choosing FHSU, which "also has what you need for a good, solid education," was its affordability. FHSU has the lowest tuition of all the Kansas Board of Regents institutions.

Nitsch was similarly impressed with the school from the beginning.

"The (FHSU) recruiter who came to my school did a really good job of explaining the university," he said. "And the price just blew Colorado out of the water."

Nitsch was able to take advantage of the contiguous states resident tuition program -- for students from the four states bordering Kansas -- where students pay less than half the cost of tuition for out-of-state residents.

"Then I came here to visit and met with the instructors, and I really liked all of them," said Nitsch, who plans to major in agriculture business.

"That made my decision pretty easy."

Bruner knows the feeling.

"I wore a lot of hats there," Bruner said. "Here, I'm able to zero in and focus on our first-year students and work closely with them."