MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Incoming Middle Tennessee State University freshman biology major Laylah Coleman likes the diversity of opportunities on the Blue Raider campus.
Taking a different slant, Cedric White loves the flat terrain, there’s a rock-climbing wall in the Campus Recreation Center and excited to pursue forensic science.
They were two of nearly 250 freshmen that mid-May day — with about 3,200 altogether and another 1,700 transfers this spring and summer — who will be attending MTSU CUSTOMS orientation for new students.
CUSTOMS helps new undergraduate students make the transition into the university from their high schools they recently graduated from or community colleges where they earned an associate degree.
Orientation prepares them for educational opportunities and initiates their integration into the intellectual, cultural and social climate of campus — quickly showing them the ropes of MTSU student life.
Regarding diversity, Coleman, 19, of Clarksville, Tennessee, and a recent West Creek High School graduate, said “in seeing Black, white, Asian and others (of color), it opens your mind up to different things.”
White, 17, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and a recent Oak Ridge High School grad who made A’s and B’s, finds “the campus easy to traverse.” He has played trumpet in school bands for eight years and plans to join the 300-plus member MTSU Band of Blue, and also enjoys photography.
Gina Poff, New Student and Family Programs director, said organizers are expecting “another exciting CUSTOMS season this year. Our numbers are very healthy at the first sessions.”
A full day — and classes scheduled - Plenty happens at CUSTOMS. One of the last items to check off: students meeting with advisors and scheduling their first classes.
In between, there’s a one-hour, student orientation assistant-led exploration of campus; and hearing about a myriad of topics including Connection Point, the summer reading book, Convocation, health and wellness, study habits, financial aid, the MTSU Student Food Pantry, MT One Stop and more from Laurie Witherow, associate vice provost for Admissions and Enrollment Services, and Becca Smitty, the MT One Stop director.
Convocation, which is open to the public, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, in Murphy Center. It will feature author Bruce Feiler, the author of “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age,” the new students’ summer reading book that many faculty will utilize in the classroom early in the fall semester.
During the afternoon, they attend a yard party — an expanded opportunity for student organizations to meet the newcomers.
“New students want to hear from current students about the opportunities on campus and these student organizations are able to share that with our incoming students at the yard party each session,” Poff said.
SOAs play a pivotal role - Throughout the day, the student orientation assistants, or SOAs, “are excited to share their experiences at MTSU with our new students and we have incorporated an hour for them to explore campus,” Poff said. “They will share information about campus, but most importantly what events to look forward to in some of the spaces across campus.
“One of their goals is to get our new students involved in at least one thing on campus, from Band of Blue, veterans association (Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center), student organizations to playing intramurals at Campus Rec. Our SOAs are very diverse and involved in so many different things on campus.”