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My Manchester Story

Scotty Secrist

by User Not Found | Aug 07, 2019

Scotty Secrist, director of first year experience and transitions, shares three keys to student success during their first year at Manchester University. HINT: If you attended New Student Orientation, you should be able to guess number three. 

“What advice would you give to high school students on their way to college?”

“First, this is a transition. And transitions, no matter what, have emotion tied to them. Sometimes that emotion is really happy or excited. But sometimes it’s scared or not sure if you can do it − and that’s OK! If you raise your hand and ask for help, the people here will jump through hoops to help you through that transition.

The second thing is that there are steps to every transition. Some of them are really boring, like filling out your FAFSA or your physical form − so have a list and try to stay organized. Work with your admissions counselor to stay on top of everything. That will make that transition easier and set you up for success.

The third thing – and what I always tell students on Orientation Days − your first year, especially those first few weeks, are going to be one of the only times in life when you can look around and everyone you see needs a friend, just like you. Some people are shy and some people are outgoing. My advice to the shy folks is to step outside of yourself, be brave, sit with somebody new at lunch and just introduce yourself. Your name, your hometown, your major − that’s enough to get a conversation started. To the outgoing folks, remember that there are shy folks. Introduce yourself to someone who is not as outgoing, because those are the ways to create relationships.”

“That transition can be very daunting. Do you have any success stories you would like to share?”

“Yes! I had one student who was struggling financially. Being far away from home, this student was having to work a lot of hours to send money back home. We worked with that student to figure out how many hours they could work and still be involved in other social activities. We looked at how they could manage their time and stay connected to family, but also be successful here. That student is returning to campus in the fall, is involved, and their grades are fantastic. So working through transitions like that is what makes me get up every single day! And that’s what I love about working at an institution of this size, because I can figure out what the individual struggle is and work to resolve it on an individual basis.”

“Can you tell me a little bit more about Welcome Week, First Year Experience courses and the yearlong mentoring program?”

“In everything I do, I try to make sure it’s giving first-year students these specific things: Students need to feel connected to Manchester and the community. They need to be able to do the academic part – that includes getting students connected to academic support resources. And students need to know how to navigate college. So, everything we do fits into one, or all, of those areas.

Welcome Week is the week right before classes start. And the second that new students step onto campus, we want them to feel welcomed − and that includes having Student Orientation Leaders (SOLs) and other MU volunteers help move students into their dorms. Last year, it was pouring rain and it was a huge struggle, but everyone stepped up, and people felt that Manchester was a welcoming place and couldn’t believe that they could just sit in their cars while everyone else moved boxes. But that’s just

what we do here at Manchester. After move in and all throughout that week, we have fun activities aimed at helping these new Spartans succeed, both inside and outside the classroom.

Throughout fall semester, we have First Year Experience classes. And woven through that, 60 SOLs are available throughout that semester – as well as the whole year – giving advice, making sure students are prepared, and also saying, ’Midterms are coming up, and you might not feel as prepared as you think you should be, but here’s how you can manage your time, study wisely and get prepared.’ And the second a student says, ‘I’m struggling with something’ they will offer guidance or come to me to create an individualized action plan to get back on track. All you have to do is raise your hand and you will have ten people from Manchester asking how they can help.”