Student Success’s virtual Scholars Academy Summer Institute jump-starts college for freshmen

Sep 02, 2020 at 10:56 am by WGNS

Summer 2020 Scholars Academy recipients of participation T-shirts recently included freshmen Jayden Blaid, left, of Nashville, Tenn., Makayla Forman of Memphis, Tenn., and Terrianna Carter of Nashville, and respective junior and senior peer mentors Moné Allen and Will Rosser, both from Memphis. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Justin Williams began his freshman year in college at Middle Tennessee State University on Monday, Aug. 24.

However, the interactive media major in the College of Media and Entertainment from Memphis, Tennessee, received a jump-start two weeks earlier through the Office of Student Success’s weeklong Freshmen Summer Institute.

Scholars Academy and STAR (Student Transition and Academic Readiness) Program are part of the MTSU early arrival programs. They are designed to serve all students, with emphasis on the needs of first generation, underrepresented and/or underprepared students, providing them with an introduction to college in a supportive learning environment.

Nearly 100 students participated in the summer institute, held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily schedule included peer mentor and team meetings, University 1010 (helping build effective strategies, skills and support essential for college success) or reading preparation classes and town hall/reflection and online social activity. There are eight more meetings this fall.

A highlight was a midweek talent show that featured mostly singers.

“The Summer Institute was a nice pathway in (to college),” said Williams, 17, a graduate of Freedom Preparatory Academy, who plans to minor in mass communication because of a radio background.

“I would have been at a roadblock if I had not participated in Scholars Academy,” he added. “It helped me meet people.”

Katelyn Powell, 19, a freshman from Greenbelt and Woodbine, Maryland, wished that the program had been its usual two weeks and in-person. She said the University 1010 class she took remotely via Zoom “helped me a lot with my communications.”

“I had to deal with that,” added Powell, a double major in music business and recording industry and a minor in music industry. “No kid wants to answer or say anything if they don’t know the topic. The teacher was always asking questions, to make us answer. I was speaking and connecting with others, and always asking for help. I learned you need to study and do the work.”

Powell is the recipient of a music tuition discount, thanks to MTSU’s Academic Common Market (Maryland universities do not offer the music programs that MTSU is known for). “That’s why I chose MTSU,” she said. “When I toured, I talked to professors, who explained about studio time, the business side, how to own your own business and how to produce and make music."

Williams and Powell praised the “amazing” Scholars Academy peer mentors for their support during the week and making themselves available during the fall semester.

At the initial welcome on Aug. 9, Vincent Windrow, associate vice provost for Student Success, told the students “to take advantage of the opportunities” before them. “… You can be successful. Pursue your dreams.”

Scholars Academy Manager Brelinda Johnson, who said the week was an extremely successful, was assisted by Student Success staff members Travis Strattion and Marvin Spencer. They rewarded the students with T-shirts and gifts during move-in week.

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