Expectations rise for freshmen class
September 13, 2010 —
While freshmen may be nervous about how they will fare at SVSU, the staff and administration have no such doubts.
Better-prepared and packed with potential is what longtime staff members say about the Class of 2014.
With more than 1,750 students fresh out of high school, this class exceeds the size of last year’s record breaking class by 14 students.
“We anticipated that this class would be slightly smaller due to the changes the University made to the admissions standards — in terms of ACT scores — from last year to this year,” said Jim Dwyer, vice president of Enrollment Management. “The same change in standards applied to last year’s class would have reduced that group by about 150 students.”
To the administration’s surprise, that change didn’t impact the size as anticipated. Enrollment numbers swelled and did so by including more students with better academic performance records coming out of high school, leading Dwyer to call this group of freshman to be “the most prepared freshman class yet.”
Here are some freshman statistics:
• 35 percent have arrived with a high school grade-point average of 3.5 or better.
• 17 percent, or more than 290 students, have an ACT score of 26 or better, which is 60 more students than last year.
• 200 are Dean’s Scholarship recipients, with an additional 150 receiving the President’s Scholarship.
According to Merry Jo Brandimore, Dean of Students, the potential promised by statistics may already be showing itself in the actions of the students.
Brandimore, who has been at SVSU for 27 years, said that “This years opening and Fresh Start were the smoothest, best I’ve experienced.”
“Attendance to all the opening week’s events, especially in terms of freshman attendance, was just remarkable. And not just attendance, but enthusiasm and participation as well. I come from a really emotional perspective; the data supports itself, but there is an aura about this group, too.”
For Brandimore and the SVSU staff, being prepared is more than an ACT score and GPA.
“It’s definitely possible if a large portion of a group has been living with an expectation of what college is, what life is like outside the classroom as well,” Brandimore said.
The Fresh Start program is designed to help students with different levels of preparedness. In determining how to meet each students needs during arrival weekend, Brandimore says the SVSU staff is charged with determining if that student is “wired or not.” After performing that duty for this class, Brandimore concludes that they were “pretty savvy.”
SVSU offers the lowest tuition of any state university in Michigan, and with more students realizing that graduate school will most likely be necessary to find a job in a competitive market, SVSU looks pretty good.
Even so, Dwyer and Brandimore believe that perhaps the most important aspect of decades of growth is that positivity perpetuates itself. “Working in Admissions,” said Dwyer, “the biggest challenge was getting people on campus. After being here, almost everybody was impressed positively in some way. Even if they didn’t end up coming here, they went back and told their friends about SVSU.”
Merry Jo Brandimore offered the same insight.
“We can attribute so much of the University’s growth to those students who have had great experiences and shared their stories,” she said. “I’ve gone all over the country to different campuses, and I just can’t imagine a place where a student could have a better experience.”
Working hard to make sure freshman students find their optimal SVSU experience is Kim Brandimore, director of Student Life. Like Merry Jo, Kim acknowledges the challenge of giving freshman a smooth transition into their new atmosphere.
“It’s a completely different world,” she said, “with a huge culture shock. They are away from their family, their friends, their home, their teachers.”
Amid the anxiety from that transition, the staff at Student Life is charged with connecting these freshmen with the extra-curricular opportunities that are right for them. And to do that, Student Life has organized a line of what Director Brandimore calls “real cool initiatives.”
One of those is the “My Top 5”program, through which every freshmen completed a form indicating the areas that they would be the most interested in involving themselves. This information was entered into a database that automatically sends all the student emails with information about opportunities to get involved on campus that are right for them.
“We know there are plenty of opportunities that are great for each student, but freshman might not know that, or how to find it out. The My Top 5 will help make that happen,” Brandimore said.
Additionally, Student Life is pushing well-rounded student involvement through the Involved Freshman Passport, which rewards students who attend events of a wide variety by entering them into a drawing for prizes.
“It’s important that students know there are not only great sporting events and student organizations giving out free food on campus, but also that SVSU has plenty of fine arts, academic lectures and other kinds of events,” Brandimore said. “There are lots of ways to get engaged, and we just want to be as out there as we can be for students.”
As some final advice for freshman, Jim Dwyer emphasizes the importance of finding one’s niche at SVSU.
“This is a special place if you engage what it has to offer,” Dywer said, adding that it is essential to “get a mentor. Mine, starting in 1971, was Dick Thompson. SVSU has gotten good facilities relatively recently, but we’ve always had good people. They, more than anything, make those positive experiences for students.”
Encouraging students to take advantage of office hours and small class sizes, Dwyer said, “I know what guys like [Professor of Political Science] Bob Lane do for students; every student should have somebody like that in their corner here at SVSU.”
Dwyer reminded freshmen that the first semester is critical, and to take advantage of their prepared, talented state, they should start “living and breathing the Cardinal experience as soon as possible.”