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Sept. 2, 2020

'Circles of Success' to connect students with mentors

New program links students with people, resources for academic success

To encourage social connections and academic success for new Michigan State University students during a global pandemic, MSU is implementing a new mentoring program — Circles of Success. Each first-year and transfer student will be supported by a professional and a peer mentor during the fall 2020 semester.

Professional mentors will provide guidance to support students’ academic and career goals and peer mentors will provide students with a baseline of wisdom and knowledge from a current Spartan perspective that will undoubtedly help the student navigate their first year — especially in a remote setting. 

The mentors will work in tandem with the already existing Student Success Teams, who provide support for students to navigate MSU’s instructional policies, procedures, and practices and to work collaboratively with partners across campus to overcome barriers to student success. This fall, the university anticipates 9,500 incoming first-year and transfer students will be joining the MSU global community.

“This partnership between our mentors and the Success Teams allows for an exchange of information about specific student needs, emergent trends and the opportunity to create effective individualized outreach plans for students exhibiting some form of academic distress,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “Coordination with colleges to bring academics and services to the forefront for students, counseling, tutoring, technology - we can work collaboratively to address whatever the student needs and challenges may be.”

All incoming students will complete a survey to be grouped in a learning community and paired with mentors who are specifically interested and trained in one of the five thematic areas. These include: 

  • Purpose-Driven Experiences: This group will focus on developing skills and characteristics, as well as the access to academic resources necessary to optimize the MSU experience. Through purposeful engagement, inquiry, and self-reflection, this community will examine values, interests (personal, academic, and career), and aspirations. Additionally, this group will explore how consistently connecting to academic support resources can positively impact success. These activities will provide students the opportunity to take a meaningful inventory of strengths, beliefs, and passions while pursuing career goals and discovering purpose. 
  • Intercultural & Diverse Experiences: Students in this community will explore diversity in identities, backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences among individuals and groups, while also gaining a better understanding of one’s self (identity). Students in this community will foster an appreciation for diversity as well as attempt to establish positive academic, social, and cultural networks. In addition to enhancing the support of students with underrepresented and/or marginalized identities, this community will introduce campus resources that allow for students to make connections and identify supportive spaces that will increase their overall academic achievement.
  • Transfer and Non-traditional Student Experiences: The Transfer and Non-Traditional Student Community brings together students who arrive at Michigan State University with valuable college and life experiences. Students in this community will receive information on navigating MSU, academic/career support resources at MSU and involvement opportunities that are geared specifically toward transfer and non-traditional students; all while making connections with peers that could last a lifetime. 
  • Local Spartans Community: This community is for students who are currently living in the East Lansing or Greater Lansing area (Ingham, Eaton, or Clinton county) during the Fall 2020 semester or for any student receiving a Michigan Promise scholarship. This is especially a good fit for students who are excited to engage with the East Lansing community. In this learning community, students will focus on being engaged citizens in their community and making a positive impact.
  • High Impact Experiences for Active and Engaged Learning: Through active and engaged out of classroom experiences, students learn by doing and then reflecting on the learning. Those in this community will be introduced to MSU programs offering internships, education abroad, community service, leadership experiences, research opportunities, and on-campus employment, among others. Students will also explore the concept of personal initiative and how to create opportunities for themselves. These experiences will help develop keys skills that employers look for in college graduates including the ability to work in a team; make decisions/solve problems; communicate; plan, organize, and prioritize work.  

For the nearly 200 former Resident Assistants (RAs) and Intercultural Aides serving as a Student Success Mentor, MSU will continue to provide them with room and board. They will live on campus in their residence hall and receive a meal plan. The Assistant Community Directors are graduate students who traditionally supervise RAs. They currently receive a room, meal plan, tuition, stipend and benefits. In making the transition to working with Circles of Success, these individuals will receive a comparable package to what they were previously offered.

“We are focused on helping students navigate the transition to MSU by offering assistance and guidance to connect them, both academically and socially, to the university,” said Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore. “Our outreach efforts include group chats, weekly virtual office hours and success chats, bi-weekly video recordings, monthly webinars and check-ins. We are also going to provide an opportunity for weekly social activities such as virtual movie nights, virtual board game nights and e-sports tournaments — our mentors will design activities that will be of interest to their group of peers.”

Additional peer mentoring programs, such as Briggs Connect, have also been launched over the summer as MSU takes strides to support students’ success and connection. Students are encouraged to engage in these programs.

Students will start to be assigned mentors as part of MSU’s Circles of Success Mentoring Program during the first weeks of classes. For more details please visit For students who do not opt in, a community circle will be assigned to them.  

By: Kelly Mazurkiewicz

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