SuccessConnects aims to assist underrepresented new students

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 8:01pm

The SuccessConnects program held its orientation for its over 150 student scholars Wednesday in the Student Activites Building.

SuccessConnects is a program guided by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives that works with underrepresented freshman students to help them sort their way through the pool of resources available to them, as well as the academic and social challenges the University of Michigan could potentially pose for them. It primarily seeks to serve first-generation college students, low-income students and students from underrepresented minorities.

Mary Taylor, a Success Coach and program coordinator at OAMI, said her team aims to create a community for students who may feel lost on a big campus.

“We are trying to serve students who wouldn’t get served by other programs,” she said. “We are bringing the resources to them and trying to make Michigan feel much smaller."

Music, Theatre & Dance senior Callie Munn, an Academic Success Partner at SuccessConnects, said the program offers a variety of opportunities for these students to find their community within the larger University setting, ultimately aiming to aid students in their transition to college.

“We cover (in the program) academic wellness, physical wellness, mental wellness and financial wellness,” she said. “We provide the students with a home away from home.”

On Wednesday, following a light reception where students had the opportunity to meet each other and the staff of SuccessConnects, there was an informational presentation about the program. It featured speakers including Robert Sellers, the vice provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs.

During his speech, Sellers spoke about the advantages of coming from a diverse background.

“What makes Michigan great?” he asked the audience. “From my perspective, it’s what we define as diversity. If you have more perspectives surrounding a problem, you're more likely to get more creative and successful solutions.”

Sellers also emphasized the normality of struggling in college and encouraged students to form a strong community to help cope with the stresses and transitions of college life.

“Everyone struggles,” he said. “It’s important that you don’t struggle by yourself. The people that are successful do not struggle by themselves."

Hector Galvan, University alum and current Success Coach, said he thinks the variety of resources available to the SuccessConnects student scholars are valuable and should be utilized throughout their time at the University.

“There a lot of resources here focused specifically on developing you as a student,” he said. “We are here to help you explore those resources on campus to take you to where you want to be."

Gloria Taylor, director of the Office of Multicultural Academic Initiatives, said the SuccessConnects orientation and program are part of her office’s commitment to the University’s mission of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The arm that we represent is diversity and inclusion,” she said. “We do programs that provide a more comfortable space for students.”

Program manager Sharon Burch said the key to the program is their belief in the capabilities of their student scholars, and their overarching goal to help students recognize a higher level of success beyond the average student.

“We know that they’re going to be successful anyway,” she said. “A higher level of achievement is what we are hoping that these students take away from this."

In his closing remarks, Sellers offered the students in the audience a piece of advice encompassing the goals of SuccessConnects, saying would change their lives for the better.

“Always do your very best at whatever it is you’re doing at that particular time, given all the things that you are facing,” he said. “Do no more, but do no less. If you live by that, then you will be in control of your happiness.”