MTSU just graduated more than 2,500 students in a virtual commencement ceremony. A new batch of freshmen and transfer students are embarking on their own Middle Tennessee State University journey.
CUSTOMS orientation is underway and will continue through July 28-29 for freshmen and through Aug. 7 for transfers. Presentations, group meetings, academic advising and registration will occur on the CUSTOMS dates.
But this annual rite of summer, as incoming students await their first semester of fall classes on a university campus, is altogether different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 prompted universities nationwide to halt on-campus events, so this year’s CUSTOMS students are experiencing a virtual process for orienting themselves to campus, which university leaders hope to reopen to in-person classes this fall.
Student Orientation Assistant Emma Summers led a “New Zealand” group of 12 freshmen through a one-hour Zoom session to start their day Thursday, May 14, Summers, 19, a junior speech pathology major from Fayetteville, Tennessee, will lead other freshmen and transfer groups through the CUSTOMS ropes.
In the middle of the session, Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services, and Laurie Witherow, associate vice provost for Enrollment Service, spoke openly about the process.
In “planting seeds” with the new students, Sells lets them know “all of you will hit a bump in the road.” She then holds up a sign that says, “You can do hard things.”
“We like students. That’s why we’re here,” added Sells, informing the students she has worked at many colleges, public and private, “but none that takes student success so seriously.”
Witherow lets them know “MTSU is a family” and she sees herself as “Aunt Laurie.”
“I know you can do it. I know you can get there,” Witherow said. “I have been standing with students from recruiting them as high school students through graduation, which is one of my greatest privileges.”
The Zoom session discusses grades and the test to receive college-level credit, dropping and adding courses, payment of fees, where to eat, parking and Connection Point, a Student Affairs program that promotes greater student engagement and special buttons as incentives.
Although students can’t take an official campus tour, a virtual campus tour is available here. The virtual tour also is available at the end of the CUSTOMS session.
With admissions recruiter Hannah Layhew a part of the session, Summers, a Lincoln County High School graduate, closed things out with helpful advice regarding time management, study skills, class scheduling and asked if the Class of 2024 had questions.
All students will chat with advisers before setting their fall classes that, as of now, are scheduled to be on campus.
For more information about CUSTOMS, call MTSU New Student and Family Programs at 615-898-2454.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)