MSU’s Circles of Success Mentoring Program Provides Support for Incoming Students

Williams Hall

On Aug. 18, the university asked undergraduate students who planned to live in the residence halls this fall to stay home and continue their education with Michigan State University (MSU) remotely. The Division of Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS) and Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) continue to provide a safe place for the small number of students in our residence halls, particularly those students for whom MSU is their home and those who need to be on campus for health and safety reasons or other extraordinary, extenuating circumstances. However, several thousand first-year and transfer students still need support as they transition to MSU.

This fall, more than 9,500 incoming students have joined the MSU community from around the globe. To encourage social connections and student success during their transition, MSU launched a new mentoring program: Circles of Success.

REHS has partnered with the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative (NSSC) through the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (APUE) to create this new mentoring program. It employs a multitiered approach resulting in each incoming student being assigned a peer student success mentor and a professional mentor for the fall 2020 semester.

Due to the shift to remote learning, resident assistants (RAs) will now serve as student success mentors and assistant community directors (ACDs) will serve as professional mentors.

The mentors will work in tandem with the already existing Student Success Teams that provide support for students trying to navigate MSU’s instructional policies, procedures and practices and work collaboratively with partners across campus to overcome barriers to student success.

“This partnership between our mentors and the Success Teams allows for an exchange of information about specific student needs and 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. “We can work collaboratively to address whatever the student needs and challenges may be.”

All first-year students were asked to complete a survey to be grouped in a learning community and paired with mentors who are 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.
  • Intercultural and 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).
  • Transfer and Non-traditional Student Experiences: This community brings together students who arrive at MSU with valuable college and life experiences.
  • Local Spartans Community: This community is for students who are currently living in the East Lansing or Greater Lansing area (Ingham; Eaton; Clinton county) during the fall 2020 semester or for any student receiving a Michigan Promise scholarship.
  • 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.

“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.”

For the nearly 200 RAs and Intercultural Aides who will be serving as student success mentors, MSU will continue to provide room and board. They will live on campus in their residence hall and receive a meal plan. In making the transition to working with Circles of Success, ACDs will receive a comparable package to that previously offered, which includes a room, meal plan, tuition, stipend and benefits.

Students began 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.