First Year Experience begins

Dr. Cliff Toliver, associate professor of English and director of the First Year Experience program, speaks with peer mentors on March 26.

Rita Forbes

Dr. Cliff Toliver, associate professor of English and director of the First Year Experience program, speaks with peer mentors on March 26.

Rita Forbes

When Randy Hopper returned to college after 20 years, he experienced difficulties and confusions that are common to many students. How do you enroll for classes? What about finding your way around campus?

“There are some things I wish someone would have told me [at the beginning of my college experience],” he said.

Now in his second semester at Missouri Southern, the junior teacher education major has figured many things out. And he’s ready to give back what he’s learned.

Hopper is preparing to be a peer mentor in MSSU’s new First-Year Experience Program.

The main focus of the program is the MIDS 100 class, titled “The University Experience: Transitions within an International Context.” This three-credit hour course will be required for all incoming students with fewer than 30 credit hours, replacing the College Orientation course, and will also fulfill the international cultural studies requirement of the core curriculum.

The MIDS 100 courses will be taught by teams, comprised of a faculty or staff member and a peer mentor. Thirty-eight upper-division students are currently taking a leadership training course, which will qualify them as peer mentors for the fall semester.

Dr. Cliff Toliver, associate professor of English and director of the First-Year Experience Program, hopes to give incoming freshmen the tools and resources necessary not only to succeed in college, but also to take advantage of the unique opportunities MSSU offers.

Toliver said he talks with many students who regret not studying abroad. As they approach graduation, students realize that they should have started earlier, taking foreign language classes and applying for grants to study abroad. But at this point, it is too late.

“Our goal is to provide students with more information earlier, so they can use the resources that are sitting there waiting for them,” he said.

The First-Year Experience Program grew out of a three-year self-study conducted by MSSU in preparation for the renewal of the University’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.

“MIDS 100 will focus resources on beginning students,” Toliver said. “An additional focus is giving time, attention, and money in the form of a stipend to the peer mentors. It shows a real commitment by the institution to the mentors and the beginning students.”

As a peer mentor, Hopper hopes to help incoming students avoid some of the mistakes he made 20 years ago.

“If I just get hold of one or two students, it’ll be worth it,” he said.