MSC Orientation: More Than a Campus
For New Students, Attending Orientation
Is the First Step Toward College Success
By Renee Pearman
Jennifer Johnson took her invitation to orientation at Macon State
College very seriously. So much so that she asked her mother to join
her. It had been two years since Jennifer graduated from Putnam County
High School, and the idea of enrolling in college was exciting but
also a bit frightening.
Tim Vick leads new summer term students
on a tour of the campus, which is part of orientation.
By the end of morning orientation for summer term, Jennifer was
feeling more at home in Macon State's new Student Life Center. She
had registered for classes, paid her fees, purchased her books,
received her parking decal and student ID, learned where her classes
would meet and made a new friend ÐÐ Tim Vick, director of
"It wasn't so long ago that I was sitting where you are now,"
Vick told Jennifer and the other MSC newcomers at the beginning
of orientation. "If you're looking for a friend on this campus,
come to me. I know exactly what you're going through."
Timothy Patrick Vick arrived on the MSC campus in 1996 as a 43-year-old
freshman who wanted to study information technology. He had retired
from the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces after 21 years
of service, and he was looking for a second career.
During his four years as a student at Macon State, Vick received
two degrees (associate of science in business administration and
bachelor of science in information technology) and was elected president
of the Student Government Association, president of the college's
chapter of Phi Beta Lambda, president of the student chapter of
the Association for Information Technology Professionals and vice
chair of the Student Advisory Council to the Board of Regents, the
governing body of the University System of Georgia. He also earned
membership in the international student honor society Phi Theta
Kappa, made the President's List every semester and worked part-time
as a peer tutor.
So, when Vick offers new students suggestions on how to succeed
in college and when he encourages them to get involved in campus
life outside the classroom, they tend to listen because they recognize
that he is speaking from experience. That's what made him an ideal
choice for director of Academic Services, which includes student
orientation and advising. He also supervises the Academic Resource
Center where help is available to students via computer assisted
learning and one-on-one peer tutoring.
Lots of Questions
Jennifer Johnson was impressed with Vick's advice. "I'm glad
I didn't miss this," she told her mother, Barbara Johnson,
who took off from work to attend orientation with her daughter.
"Macon State's orientation is a very good program,"
Mrs. Johnson said. "I think we've learned that there is a good
support system for students here. Jennifer now knows where to go
and who to go to when she needs help. I'm very impressed with what
I've heard here today."
Jennifer is following in the footsteps of her four brothers who
are attending colleges in Atlanta, Alabama and Tennessee. "I've
been working since I finished high school two years ago, but now
I'm ready to start college because I want to do something with my
life," she said. "I'm glad I came to orientation because
although I've been on this campus before, I'm still learning my
way around. I think this will make things easier for me when classes
The first day of classes can be stressful for anyone, according
to Vick. "Students might not know where their classes are located,
they might not know where to park, they might still need to purchase
books or supplies, they don't know where the advising offices are
or where they need to go to get their student ID. Those questions
and many more are answered at orientation."
Tina Gantt, a beginning freshman, and Jennifer Bowdry, a transferring
sophomore, did not really want to spend a late spring morning at
an orientation session, especially when classes did not begin for
another few days, but they also had lots of questions about where
to go, who to see and what to do.
"This kind of helps you get the feel of being a college student,"
Gantt said of the half-day session. "I wanted to find out where
my classes are and get the feel of the teachers here and know where
the counselors are in case I need help later on. I'm glad I came
Dr. Myra Jackson, interim associate vice president for Student
Affairs believes attending orientation is an important first step
for new and transfer students at Macon State.
"Orientation serves as our official welcome to students coming
to Macon State College for the first time," Jackson said. "Our
orientation program promotes student interaction with their peers
who are experiencing similar excitement, anxiety and anticipation
about beginning or extending their academic pursuits. Plus, it connects
students new to campus with orientation guides, advisors, staff
and faculty who want to help them adjust to the MSC environment.
"During orientation we introduce students to a plethora of
representatives from student organizations and campus offices as
well as administrators who explain the services provided at the
college. We also tell students about the academic, co-curricular,
career and personal services we provide, and we take the students
on a tour of the campus."
Dr. Sue Leslie, associate vice president for Academic Affairs,
tells students to view orientation as a map, of sorts. "To
be successful and to eliminate stress as much as possible, it is
helpful to know one's way around a new situation," Leslie said.
"We would not try to drive to a completely unfamiliar place
without consulting a map. Orientation is a student's 'map' through
the college experience. It is at orientation that some of the mystery
is taken out of the new college experience, and very important information
Vick attended orientation in the fall of 1996, and he learned
all that Jackson and Leslie mentioned, plus something that would
prove to be very important four years later ÐÐ how to cover
the same amount of information in half the time.
Now that all student services-related offices are located in the
Student Life Center, which was completed last fall, those attending
orientation can register, pay fees, be advised, buy textbooks, get
parking decals and IDs, meet career counselors, pick up information
about campus organizations and grab a snack all under one roof.
"I have tried to make the orientation sessions as student-friendly
as possible," said Vick, who assumed responsibility for orientation
programs last fall. "We don't just load them up with handouts,
a campus map and T-shirts, although the T-shirts have certainly
been a hit. We introduce them to our staff, give them a tour of
the campus, share study tips with them, tell them about all the
resources available on this campus and guide them through registration
Orientation sessions for new and transfer students are scheduled
several days before each semester begins: in early January for spring,
in late May for summer and in July and August for fall. Invitations
are mailed to students who have applied and been accepted to Macon
State College. New students pay an orientation fee, which funds
"For our new and transfer students, attending orientation
is just as important, in my opinion, as attending the first day
of class," Vick said.
"In addition to seeing an academic advisor and selecting classes
for their first semester with MSC, we inform students of the many
opportunities available to them at Macon State. We cover student
services offered, tips and techniques on how to be a successful
student, student rights and responsibilities, and we have a very
informative session on how to create a program of study by comparing
the MSC core curriculum requirements to the student's particular
"And, one of the most important outcomes of orientation is
to encourage each new student to identify at least one person on
campus -- a faculty or staff member -- to whom they can go for help.
Our faculty and staff are eager to engage students, and it is this
contact that sometimes helps students over any rough spots they
may encounter. We strive to let the students know that they do not
have to go through this alone."
Good Starting Point
At the summer orientation, attendees met Dr. Tom Isherwood, vice
president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty, who shared
the history of the college and more words of advice.
"All of our faculty, staff and campus resources are here to
help you be successful students. We want you to be successful. We
want you to make it. If you're successful, then we're successful,"
Isherwood told the students. "And, one thing I want to encourage
you to do is become involved while you're here simply because college
is more fun the more involved you are in student life."
Lynn McCraney, director of Student Life, then told them how to
get involved. She listed student organizations, intramural sports
and campus/community events, and she reminded them that Macon State
has a wellness center and health clinic.
They also spent time with Ann Loyd, director of Student Services,
who told them about the college's career center, co-op and internship
opportunities, career and personal counseling services, and Lunch
& Learn seminars that cover everything from how to deal with
test anxiety to how to deal with credit card woes.
"I think the most important benefit I received from orientation
when I first came here was knowing that I was not the only one who
was new to the process and that there were people on campus who
were truly interested in making sure my experience at MSC was positive,"
Vick said. "The faculty and staff I met at my orientation session
five years ago continue to be the people I contact now when I encounter
a student who can benefit from their help."
"The presentations from Student Services and Student Life
also let me know that there is more to college than the classroom
experience. In addition to the excellent classroom offerings, I
found out that there are many opportunities for learning outside
the classroom," Vick continued. "That's what I want our
new students to know about Macon State College. I want their experiences
here to be as terrific as mine were as a student, both in the classroom
and outside the classroom, and I think our orientation program is
a good starting point."