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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 19, 2019) — Last week, "see blue." U came to an end at the University of Kentucky. During June and July, thousands of first-year students and their families attended these orientation sessions to meet their peers, hear from campus offices and organizations, register for classes and discover what’s possible for them at UK. They quickly learned one thing possible at UK — being equipped with new technology.
New to this year’s orientation was the distribution of an iPad Air, Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil to first-year students. The distribution was part of a new, campuswide SMART initiative, designed to use technology to maximize learning and support for students.
The university was abuzz as the incoming class of 2023 made their way through campus to discover and experience all that UK has to offer.
The two-day orientation sessions offer a glimpse of what students can expect at the university. The first day provides students with an in-depth overview of life at UK, while the second day focuses on the student’s academic success and preparedness. While all activities planned for the newcomers are engaging, for many students, picking up their new Apple gear was the most anticipated activity on the agenda.
Eager, incoming first-year students rushed through the doors of the Cats Den, the designated location for iPad distribution, as an overwhelming feeling of enthusiasm filled the room. Future Wildcats quickly moved through the lines to receive their brand-new Apple gear, and a sense of relief — and anticipation of what’s possible — could be seen on their faces as their new merchandise was placed in their hands.
"I feel really good," exclaimed Alexis Clidist, future neuroscience major. "I was really nervous because I knew I would not be able to afford something like this, but the idea that they are giving us an iPad to use to make sure everyone is on the same playing field is absolutely amazing and a great opportunity."
Clidist’s response mirrored that of other students, who understand the importance of technology in learning and navigating their new campus home.
By providing each first-year student with an iPad, Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, UK hopes to fully immerse students in technology enriched classrooms, further engaging students in the learning process and better preparing them for future careers.
Eventually, the devices will be pre-configured with iOS apps designed specifically for and by UK students. The iOS apps are intended to help students achieve a high level of academic success and help with their transition to the university.
Future Wildcat Devon Meeks said he was surprised to learn UK was giving first-year students iPads. "I think it is going to be pretty awesome to use and have throughout college."
Beginning this fall, several first-year courses will use the new technology in class. In addition, select co-curricular programs, such as living learning programs and the Lewis Honors College, will also use the technology.
“Our smart campus strategy underscores our promise to put students at the center of everything we do,” said UK Provost Dave Blackwell. “It supports our strategic plan goals of increasing retention and graduation rates, and prepares students for the technologically advanced and interconnected world they will enter after leaving our campus.”
During the distribution process, students were escorted through the lines with a "helper," providing them with information on how to properly login and set up their new device, as well as instructions on helpful navigation workflows. After students received their new products, Apple employees were on site to aide students with any additional technology related questions.
"This is one of three schools, I think I heard, in the entire country to have this opportunity, so I like it," said Mason Joseph, future computer science major. "Having a one stop place if you have a question just to go there and then have it answered for you, I feel like it will be very useful."
Over the four-week period, more than 4,100 iPads were deployed. Distribution for first-year students who have not received their iPad will continue during K Week in August.
As a campus community, the university collaborated to help support the incoming freshman class, creating an atmosphere that represents the university in the best way possible — as advocates for the students.
Although "see blue." U orientations have come to an end, the work is not done.
Faculty and staff are preparing for the students' return in August, and while future Wildcats now wait for their first year of college to begin, they are remotely tuned in to campus on their new devices, just waiting to experience what else is possible at UK.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,” and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.