Terrace Views

Union South Opens Arms to New Badgers


SOAR new student leaders welcoming incoming students with a rendition of “Varsity.” Photo Courtesy of Jeff Miller.

The local airport and surrounding streets flood with traffic as incoming freshmen and transfer students travel to campus from all over the world for the two-day Student Orientation and Registration (SOAR). SOAR is more than picking classes and meeting your advisor, it is the beginning of your Wisconsin Experience.

“We create a welcoming atmosphere that lets students know they are ready to begin an incredible journey, a new chapter in their lives,” Center for First-Year Experience Intern Adam Piasecki said.

SOAR has been held for new students in Union South since before the reopening in 2011. With a range of dining options, a location in the heart of campus and help from Union staff, Union South has become a cornerstone of the SOAR program.

“Union South is a place where students come to meet, hang out and eat during the school year,” Assistant Director of Orientation Initiatives Chris Verhaeghe said. “We want it to be easy for new students to see that there is a home here for them here. The Union is a great place to showcase that.”

During any free time students and families may have, they are encouraged to walk around around campus and start to see themselves as a part of the UW-Madison community. Scheduled SOAR programming across the two days includes meals, presentations, discussions groups and academic advising.

Also on students’ check-list is to get their Wiscard, the official UW-Madison identification card. A Wiscard gives access to libraries, recreation facilities, door access to residential halls and a money source for the unions, bookstore and dining halls.

Wiscard, run by the Wisconsin Union, also has a program with UW Credit Union that gives you to option to use your Wiscard as a PIN-based debit card with a UW Credit Union checking account. This means you can use your Wiscard at any ATM or business that accepts PIN-based debit transactions.

Wiscards are students’ key to UW-Madison, and when leaving campus with a class schedule and their card, many incoming students become excited to return in August.

“[Your Wiscard] is a physical sign that you are a Badger and nothing is cooler and more exciting than that,” Adam said.

Since all SOAR programming is held in Union South, Union staff play an integral part in helping organize events, catering and tie loose ends along the way.

“We work closely with the Union to really make sure we showcase the university correctly and put our best foot forward,” Chris said. “Even small things along the way, like helping to make sure everyone’s needs are met have made us so fortunate to work with Union staff.”

Adam describes his experience of planning SOAR as rewarding, as he plays an integral part in affecting people in a positive manner.

“The staff that I work with are some of the most passionate people I have ever been surrounded by,” Adam said. “Seeing visitors leave feeling great about SOAR and their upcoming time on campus is something that I can’t put into words.”

Author: Gabrielle DiBenedetto

Gabrielle DiBenedetto is a UW-Madison junior double majoring in Journalism and Economics. She can be seen studying or chatting with friends in the Sun Garden at Union South with a bowl of Babcock ice cream.

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