When Andrea Gruner arrived at Blackhawk Technical College three years ago, she was a late enrollee in the Culinary Arts program who spent the first few weeks just trying to figure out where to go and how to get there in the sometimes confusing roundabout known as the Central Campus.
“I was lost even when I wasn’t lost,’’ Gruner recalled with a laugh of those early days at BTC.
Now, Gruner not only has been found, she is a guide for those new students preparing to study at BTC when school begins on Aug. 19. In her role as president of the Student Government Association, Gruner can be found at BTC’s New Student Welcome Days, orientation sessions intended to make the transition to BTC as smooth as possible for new students.
“I didn’t register until late, so I didn’t get to orientation,’’ Gruner recalled. “I really wish I had. It would have made going back to school so much easier.’’
Gruner was speaking at the second of six scheduled New Student Welcome Days while 75 new students gathered in the Commons to listen and learn about what is in store for them.
Three more sessions are scheduled for the Central Campus – Thursday, Aug. 8, from 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Two orientation programs are set for the Monroe Campus, as well, on Wednesday, Aug. 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday, Aug. 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Those in attendance listened to a talk on financial literacy from Rod Benstead, a representative of the Credit Counseling Service of Janesville and Beloit. “You control this,’’ he said of the financial obligations that come with education. “This does not control you.’’
Jo Ann Moller, a financial aid specialist at Blackhawk, simplified the sometimes complex world of student loans and grants.
Other BTC staff members and instructors were seated around the Commons at tables filled with literature and information on their areas of expertise such as student club activities, BTC related computer subjects, the bookstore’s menu and professional development programs.
BTC Ambassadors, students who are here to assist and guide other students through the variety of issues they may face, provided tours. The new students also received presentations on tutoring resources, academic planning and online tools from BTC personnel.
Hunter Brandt of Milton, who is entering the Computer Service Technician and Information Technology programs, came to the session with an advantage.
He had attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls before withdrawing to deal with a family emergency. That brief college experience left him familiar with the ways and means of the financial aid system that some other students may not have known.
He recognized the value of the orientation program. “It definitely should help,’’ he said. “With all the resources available (at orientation) and with all the people to talk to, if the students take the initiative to help themselves, it should be a real help in understanding what they have to offer.’’
It’s that initiative that Gruner emphasized. Now as a veteran of BTC, she recognizes just how valuable these orientation sessions can be. “You don’t realize it now, but there is a whole new world out there for you,’’ she said.
“This is the beginning. This is where it starts for you. Take advantage of what we offer. Take advantage of your instructors and your programs. This is where it all starts and it is really important to get involved and take advantage of it.’’