Fall Welcome 2023 kicked off this semester with events, programs and activities for new and returning students. The calendar of events blended strategies and best practices that made students feel welcome or reconnected to the MSU campus and community—a critical foundation that fosters a sense of belonging at MSU.
“The Fall Welcome schedule was a bit different this year, but for the most part, we amplified the great things that we’ve done in the past. We were effective in pulling together activities from all over the university that set students up for success and had excellent participation from the colleges and units,” says Tammye Coles, associate director of Spartan Experiences, Fall Welcome and Leadership Development. “Fall Welcome is really a campus wide event that calls on the whole university to deploy their student success efforts. Our office pulls everything together and provides coordination, but it is really campus and the city of East Lansing pitching in to welcome students,” explains Coles.
Every part of Fall Welcome is intentional and based on research, MSU innovations, and best practices from other institutions as well as student input from Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU), Council of Graduate Students (COGS), University Activities Board (UAB), Residence Halls Association (RHA) and surveys. “We’ve always had social events and belonging kinds of workshops and programming. The focus this year was to raise the caliber of our events and make them even more appealing to students,” says Coles.
For Fall Welcome 2023, changes to the 23-24 academic schedule provided an opportunity to rethink how programming was made available to students. “The new schedule was strategically organized to move people in and to do more of the cohort programming whether it was for transfer students, students with disabilities, students that were in STEM programs like the Dow STEM scholars,” reflects Coles.
Another part of enhancing this year’s welcome experience was offering various avenues to success for students. “I think the thing that may have changed this year is that we're saying those things out loud and giving students a prescription in terms of what things they can do to be successful,” explains Coles. “Hopefully by conveying that information to students during Fall Welcome, they will use it and see it as sort of a blueprint or a map of how they can do well academically and partake in all of the things that make up a great college experience—with the ultimate goal of graduating from this institution,” says Coles. To that end, the Fall Welcome Handbook, which is accessible via the MSU app, provides check lists and other reminders.
MSU also provides individualized student schedules which serve up specific college events and specialized activities based on students’ characteristics to help them find their way to offerings of interest. For example, an international student may have been prompted in the in their schedule for activities for their major or college, along with events designed specifically for international students. The individualized schedule is a feature available to all incoming students. “A best practice we implemented this year was an idea from another institution. When you access information about any of the events it will link you to a sensory guide to tell you whether the event has crowds or if it would involve physical activity, or other things like intense lighting. There are certain things that some people cannot do or are uncomfortable doing. Now they have more information and can figure out what works for them, and they won’t be surprised,” says Coles. “We also created a lot of safe spaces available for students while they were participating in different events, because we have all kinds of students with all kinds of interests and all kinds of challenges. We want to be able to give them the opportunity to be their best in whatever space they're engaging in,” concludes Coles.
Coles says her team received valuable feedback about Fall Welcome via the SLE assessment office student survey, with about 4,000 students replying. “One of the questions we ask is did participation in Fall Welcome events help you feel connected and make the transition to MSU a good one? About 89% indicated they attended Fall Welcome events and 95% said that it helped them become or stay connected to MSU,” shares Coles.
Fall Welcome will continue to evolve and seek input and participation from the entire community. “Everyone has something to contribute,” says Coles. “We just keep raising the level of our work and creating a better experience for students at MSU.”
To learn more about Fall Welcome and the work of the Office of Spartan Experiences, visit spartanexperiences.msu.edu.