FOCUS center provides academic resources for students

First-Year Opportunities and Connections for UNA Students (FOCUS) is a freshman-oriented community that strives to help students with the transition into college life, both socially and academically. The FOCUS Success Center is located on the first floor of Rivers Hall and provides a variety of resources, including advising, extra tools for studying and tutoring.

Jennifer Ballard, assistant director of Residence Life for Success Initiatives, serves as the forerunner of FOCUS. She collaborates with the First-Year Resident Educators (FYRE) Fellows as well as several other programs on campus to help students personally and academically.

“This is the first-year initial group for FOCUS, but the goal is for students in years to come to look forward to the program,” Ballard said. “Education is our priority, and building community is our ultimate goal. We want to help cultivate a Pride at UNA and to view the halls as a home.”

“First year” is a reference to any student who is experiencing his or her first year at UNA. Transfer students are handled on a personal basis, but the goal of FOCUS is to provide all the tools necessary for a great experience.

“The first six weeks of college are the most critical to a student’s first year, and FYRE fellows are specially trained to know what the transition is like,” Ballard said. “We want to meet students where they are and engage them.”

Ballard said the Success Center provides computers, private rooms for studying, tutoring throughout the week, and FYRE Fellows to answer any questions or concerns.

FYRE Fellows are located on the first four floors of Rivers Hall, also known as the Focus Floors. The Focus Floors are designated for the FOCUS program; however, the Success Center is available to all freshmen.

UNA student Olivia Elliott serves as one of the FYRE Fellows for FOCUS.

“We’re all about community and all of this is new to them, but (students are) learning to use all their resources, including peers and faculty, as well as FYRE Fellows and (Community Advisers),” Elliott said. “I think it’s coming a long way and so does everyone else. It’s really neat and cool, and I love being able to help.

“Students have been eager to ask about homework and certain departments around campus. I’m excited that they are willing and want to use us as a resource, and I hope once school picks up they will still want to do so. We are really passionate about what we are doing and we really want the freshmen to utilize this.”

Jennifer Weeks, a freshman living on one of the FOCUS floors, said she will probably take advantage of the tutoring offered in the Success Center this semester.

Many other students said they had heard of the program; however, they did not know where the Success Center was or what it had to offer.

Leslie Clegg, a community adviser, said she believes student awareness is the most important thing at this point.

“With it being in Rivers, the location will help a lot,” Clegg said. “Your first year is so exciting because you’re out on your own, so Rivers being a resource will help students focus on classes. If we make it the talk of campus—as far as freshmen go—it will become a lot more resourceful.”