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A New Terp’s Guide to the UMD Galaxy

Recently Launched Program Links Incoming Students With Seasoned Undergrads

By Sala Levin ’10

Students walk by the Armory

Photo by John T. Consoli

Maeve McCarthy '21 acts as a guide to all things UMD to transfer student Zachary Wolfman '23 through the Terps Connect program, launched this semester by the Division of Student Affairs. The initiative matches experienced undergrads with new Terps to help them acclimate to college life.

In the best of times, a new student’s first semester of college can be difficult and awkward, a confusing montage of columned buildings, new faces in residence halls and mad dashes across campus to get to class on time. Add in COVID-19 and all of its complications—closures, isolation, online classes—and adjusting to college can seem overwhelming.

A new program from the Division of Student Affairs hopes to ease that transition by pairing incoming students with an older peer to act as a sounding board, advice-giver and general guide to all things UMD. Terps Connect is rolling out now, with the help of 400 undergraduates who volunteered to be paired with students living in residence halls this semester for the first time as well as new transfer students, together totaling about 1,500.

“Students (were) feeling disconnected, feeling like what would have been normal exchanges with faculty and other students in the classroom were absent from their lives,” said Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, director of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, referring to data collected from surveys in the fall. “This idea emanates from that: You've got growing cases of alienation and exhaustion in not feeling like you're part of a community.”

Together with several colleagues across the Division of Student Affairs and student leaders Sophia Franklin ’23 and Kaitlyn Myles ’21, Guenzler-Stevens and Ayush Pokharel, coordinator at the Stamp, launched Terps Connect, matching volunteers with new Terps based on a range of interests and availability. Each pair is encouraged to communicate via text, Zoom, email or whatever other virtual means to build a rapport, and share information and opinions on campus resources, classes, clubs and any other aspect of life at UMD.

Maeve McCarthy ’21 heard about Terps Connect in her class on women’s leadership, taught by Guenzler-Stevens. She felt inspired to share her on-the-ground UMD knowledge to help make up for a lack of in-person camaraderie new students might feel.

“Just being around other freshmen, being able to talk to people in the diner or in class, I was able to meet people and then we were able to figure everything out together,” McCarthy said. “Freshmen this year really aren’t able to do that.”

She and her new-student partner, Zachary Wolfman ’23, a transfer student, share an interest in sports—McCarthy even tipped him off about her marketing internship in UMD’s athletics department, for which Wolfman is now applying.

“It’s really great just to get another resource to talk to as somebody who’s new,” said Wolfman.

 

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.