300-plus new MTSU students initiate CUSTOMS orient...

300-plus new MTSU students initiate CUSTOMS orientation

People came from as far away as Illinois and as near as Murfreesboro, and through the end of July, they’ll travel from around the country in order to attend MTSU’s CUSTOMS freshmen orientation for the Class of 2021.

Nearly 330 incoming freshmen and 315 parents and family members arrived Thursday, May 18, for the first day of a two-day orientation session, the first of 10 CUSTOMS sessions that run through July 25-26.

MTSU CUSTOMS freshmen orientation students break for lunch

Students planning to attend MTSU this fall take the stairs to go to lunch after leaving Port of Call sessions that are a part of MTSU freshmen orientation May 18 in the Student Union. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

In all, potentially 4,000 freshmen will participate in CUSTOMS. Coordinated by the Office of New Student and Family Programs, CUSTOMS shows freshmen the ropes of being an MTSU student and introduces them to the intellectual, cultural and social climate of the university.

For more about CUSTOMS, including dates, schedules and cost, call 615-898-5533 or visit

Grace Caldwell, a senior at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School in Nashville, attended with her father, Thomas Caldwell.

“It has gone well,” said Grace Caldwell, who plans to major in psychology. “There’s been a whole bunch of information. I like the way they are presenting it. I’m eager to see what else is going to be presented.”

Following check-in for all and placement tests in music and foreign language for some, Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services, offered the welcome and instructions for the day.

“You are our first glimpse,” said Sells, who told the new students MTSU “is going to change your life and you also are going to change our life.

“Every single person here has what it takes to be successful, but I have a prediction: At some point, you will hit a bump in the road. Nobody escapes unscathed, but you can overcome hard things.”

Future MTSU student asks Honors College dean about scholarship opportunities

MTSU Honors College Dean John Vile, left, listens as Makayla Boling of Sevierville, Tenn., asks questions about potential scholarship opportunities May 18 during the first of 10 freshmen CUSTOMS orientation sessions for students starting in August. Boling is a senior at Pigeon Forge High School.

Sells said freshmen should commit to being full-time students — “attendance is everything because you are paying for every hour of classroom time” — and to schedule classes Monday through Friday, not just two or three days a week.

Urging them to get connected on campus through “Connection Point,” where they collect special buttons by attending campus events, Sells said the Division of Student Affairs wants them to complete at least six Connection Point events by Sept. 6. The Aug. 27 Freedom Sings all-campus sing, Sept. 2 MTSU-Vanderbilt football game, and Sept. 6 Volunteer Fair are among the early events.

Sells tied together the Summer Reading Program and this year’s book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance, with what she called “the first day of class” — required attendance for the 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, University Convocation in Murphy Center, with Vance the scheduled speaker.

Dr. Laurie Witherow, associate vice provost for admissions and enrollment services, discussed the university’s MT One Stop, a convenient way to take care of university business, in the Student Services and Admissions Center.

Gina Poff, director of MTSU’s Office of New Student and Family Programs, said staffers there are “excited about the cross-campus involvement — everything from MT Engage to the Campus Pharmacy — covering every type of student and student need.”

Midday sessions open to the new students included information on the Blue of Band, choral music, MT Dining, the University Honors College, MTSU’s ROTC program, Student Support Services, the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, and University 1010, the freshman seminar designed to ease students’ transition int0 college life. They also met with academic advisers, heard a college life issues presentation and were treated to a barbecue dinner at the Campus Recreation Center.

— Randy Weiler (

A trio of Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School students attend MTSU freshmen CUSTOMS orientation

Strong Oboh, left, Grace Caldwell and Aquan Avant — all seniors at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School in Nashville — visit during a break between MTSU freshmen CUSTOMS orientation sessions May 18 in the Student Union.