The Ohio State University at Mansfield is known for its friendly caring attitude and those qualities show from the minute new students commit to “Buckeye North” and continue through their first year and beyond. In fact, that strong foundation towards building student success is one reason students decide to stay for a second, third, and four year with us.
Natasha Stouffer, Admissions and First Year Experience coordinator, says the goal is to try to help students through different stages of development, both academic and social.
“Students are feeling different things during this time, like ‘am I academically prepared for the first year.’ Some are moving to a new area and meeting potential roommates. If they are commuting, they have a newly emerging role of independent adult, yet are still living at home.”
Ohio State Mansfield offers many opportunities to smooth the transition to college life.
Admitted students become Buckeyes at Orientation. They experience college traditions, receive their BuckID and leave with their first schedule of classes. Sessions for parents include financial aid, health insurance, safety on campus and how to be a part of their student’s success during the first year.
“Orientation also serves as the venue for new students to meet their new collegial classmates,” said Collin Palmer, Admissions counselor.
Student Welcome Leaders play a large part in making the new students and parents comfortable.
“When I’m at orientations, I try to make those personal connections with parents and students,” said Psychology major and Welcome Leader Mark Matthews. “I want them to know that faculty and staff genuinely care to a degree that goes so far beyond academia and social aspects to a personal level that you don’t get anywhere else.”
At orientation, students also learn about other pre-enrollment programs like Camp Hetuck, SMART and First Generation Connection Learning Community.
First Year Experience
Admissions counselors at Ohio State Mansfield also act as First Year Experience counselors.
“As an Admissions counselor, I get to know prospective students and they know I will be there with them throughout their first year,” Stouffer said.
FYE spans pre-enrollment through a student’s first year of college.
Pre-enrollment is about breaking the ice and getting rid of some of the myths that students might have about college, according to Stouffer. Engaging students becomes a campus-wide initiative. Activities such as the Buckeye Book Experience, Success Series and Convocation provide further engagement.
During the first semester, it’s all about making connections. Students who feel connected to their campus within the first six weeks are more likely to stay, according to Stouffer.
During the second semester, that foundation is built upon.
“At this point we want them to take the positive experiences they felt in their first semester and take more of a leadership role to continue the cycle,” Stouffer said.
Ohio State Mansfield’s Camp Hetuck, in it’s 10th year, is one of the most prestigious campus events for new students. Sixty new students and a dozen student facilitators who are past participants converge in July for two days, including an overnight in Molyet Village student housing, to learn leadership skills.
“It’s almost like a secret society,” said Elise Riggle, director of Student Engagement. “They say ‘I’m a Hetucker’ like it’s a badge of honor.”
Teams of upper class leaders partner with new students to participate in competitions and games but also to have some serious conversations about leadership.
“What ends up happening is that you have students who have never met each other and within two days they are sharing things that they would only share with their most intimate friends,” says Matthews, who is also a facilitator.
Students Making a Realistic Transition is designed for students of color and for those who feel they might be challenged in making the transition to college, according to Renee Thompson, Office of Diversity and Family Engagement.
“College is very different from high school,” she said. “You can have a student who was very successful in high school, socially and academically, and then feel after the first semester that he has failed miserably. It requires a different sort of discipline and a lot more responsibility from the student.”
A two-part session titled Be the Difference introduces students to community services and activities. Thompson also offers a one-credit Seminar for Students of Color that anyone may take, which explores diversity.
First Generation Connection Learning Community
Ohio State Mansfield has a large first generation college student population, according to Stouffer.
“Many of our students are the first in their family to attend college,” she said. “The parents usually are the ones who would tell students what to expect, but in this case they are the pioneers in the family.”
Twenty students are accepted into the program each year. They participate in group activities during Welcome Week and attend at least two classes together as a group. During the second semester, they engage in a service-learning project.
“They take what they learned in the classroom about social empowerment and justice and apply it in the community,” Stouffer said. “This is a great opportunity to see our students go from feeling unsure to feeling that they are important to our community and that they are giving back.”
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