As summer draws to a close and students and teachers prepare to go back to school, MTSU's incoming freshmen recently prepared to become official Blue Raiders by participating in the CUSTOMS experience.
CUSTOMS is Middle Tennessee State University’s summer orientation program for new students. In May, the first of 11 sessions began that wrapped up this week with more than 2,700 incoming freshmen participants.
Every new student was assigned to a group or “country” that was led by a trained Student Orientation Assistant or SOA. Freshmen in these groups became honorary citizens of Scotland, France, Italy or Australia, and then they travel to a foreign land — MTSU.
Each SOA becomes a tour guide, helping new students to navigate the grounds of campus, tour buildings, meet with deans of various colleges and plan fall schedules with advisers.
“The best part of my day is getting to know the students,” explained Anit Patel, senior in Business Management and first time SOA. “I love telling them about MTSU and all the resources it has to offer.”
Each orientation session was a two-day event, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the first day and concluded the following afternoon. Although the pace of the schedule kept students busy, it allowed for a preview of what they can look forward to.
“This makes me excited to be in class again, but this time learning at the university level,” said incoming student Rena Andrews, recent graduate of Lincoln County High School in Fayetteville, Tenn.
“My favorite part was talking to my adviser and picking my classes for the fall,” explained John Fuller of Rockwood, Tenn.
Although CUSTOMS helps new students get settled into college life, it also helps to ease the transition for nervous parents by providing tours and lectures for visiting family members.
“The students are professional and everyone has been very kind,” said Konrad Spillman of Gallatin, Tenn. “As a parent I'm very impressed. It makes me want to go back to college!”
Mark Murphy, coordinator of new student and family programs, is proud of what CUSTOMS and its dedicated staff were able to accomplish.
“The SOAs encourage the new students in their groups — the same way that they were encouraged when they were freshmen. It's an exciting time to be on campus,” Murphy said, referencing the recent addition of the Student Union, which has hosted many of this year's CUSTOMS events.
“I'm happy to help introduce students to the university.”