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DawgsTogether program connects students

Alan Flurry

Each year, UGA and the Franklin welcome hundreds of new transfer students to campus. Our Office of Student Academic Services and Transfer Academic Services provide on-boarding support and guidance for new students as they adjust to campus. Peer allies are also a vital component of helping students acclimate to the campus community, especially in such challenging times:

Change can be nerve-wracking, especially for incoming college students. On top of that, COVID-19 presents its own set of challenges for students, like second-year transfer Scott Wagner.

“COVID has taken advantage of my shy nature,” said Wagner, a computer science major in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Pushing things online and not really having the opportunities to randomly meet people has been tough.”

The University of Georgia’s Division of Academic Enhancement is working to overcome that obstacle through peer education.

While UGA has offered peer mentoring for more than 40 years, the pandemic hastened the need for a program to help first-year and transfer students plug into the UGA community. When Zoom calls and virtual events replaced after-class conversations and happenstance meetings on campus, many new students found it challenging to make those vital social connections.

“Our goal was to not just tell students they’re valued by the institution and that they’re not alone, but to help them experience that,” said Maggie Blanton, DAE’s assistant director for services.

To promote relationships among students, DAE launched DawgsTogether, a program that connects incoming students with peer allies to explore opportunities, academic support networks and social groups.

Great work by DAE and the many students who step up to support fellow students. Collegiality at every level speaks to the fabric of our community, which of course is only as strong, caring, and resilient as its people.

Image: Tara Anastasoff, right, a peer ally in the DawgsTogether program, working with first-year and transfer students like Scott Wagner, left. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

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