Inside Mizzou: New Beginnings

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August 13, 2019

With a new academic year right around the corner, I am thrilled to welcome everyone back to campus. I am confident this year will bring new opportunities and milestones for so many of you – from our first-year students and new faculty to our 10 staff members who were honored for their 40 years or more of service last May. You help us strengthen the Mizzou story every day.

Speaking of stories, I am so excited to launch another great season of the Inside Mizzou podcast. Every other week, I’ll talk with members of our community on topics such as the recovery efforts following this summer’s natural disasters, precision medicine, architecture and much more. This week, I’m sitting down with one of our exceptional transfer students, Jordyn Bensyl. We discuss the unique challenges that transfer students face, as well as the resources here that help them – and all of our students – succeed.
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Moderator: [00:00:11] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — a podcast featuring Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and members of the Mizzou community that explores the real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Welcome back for the second season of Inside Mizzou. We have some great episodes planned, and we’re excited to kick off season two with today’s episode, “New Beginnings.” As all students know, the path to a college degree can take many directions, even some detours along the way. Joining Chancellor Cartwright to talk about their unique path is a transfer student starting their second year at Mizzou. Jordyn Bensyl is a pre-journalism major who previously attended schools in Chicago and Kansas City. Jordyn, thank you for joining us.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:00:59] Yeah, of course.

Moderator: [00:01:00] So, the first day of college classes can be overwhelming. You have the unique experience of having two or possibly even three first days. So, how was your first day at MU?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:01:11] My first day at MU was definitely nerve-racking but exciting. I kind of felt like a little kid because I took the shuttle bus in from my off-campus apartment, so it was like riding the bus to school on your first day. It was definitely a shock when I got off because of just the sheer amount of students that were everywhere. But everyone was just so happy to be there. You could definitely feel the Tiger spirit and pride. Everyone loved being there. Everyone was so welcoming. Something to get used to was definitely how large the class sizes were upon arriving. That was definitely shocking, but overall it was very good. Everyone was very opening.

Moderator: [00:01:52] Awesome, awesome. Yeah, Mizzou definitely has a very opening community, I would say. So, what exactly made you come here in the first place? And then after spending a year here, what made you want to stay and make Mizzou where you want to finish your educational career?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:02:07] I wanted to come here for the journalism school. Obviously, it’s the best, so I was really excited when I got that opportunity. I wanted to stay here just because of the opportunity that’s available here. You know, even before I arrived on campus, I was able to get an on-campus job working in the Office of Undergraduate Research as a public relations and marketing student worker. So, that was really awesome. And then just how many clubs and activities there are you can get involved with that can kind of tailor to your major or your interests and stuff like that.

Moderator: [00:02:41] And you’re involved with Transfer Experience and Advising Mentors, or TEAM for short. Can you explain what that is exactly and how it helps transfer students find a sense of place on campus?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:02:52] Yeah. So, TEAM is an organization that is made by transfer students for transfer students. So, it’s a 10-week program that starts in the fall or spring, depending on what class you’re in. And what that looks like is you — if you’re an incoming transfer — you’re paired with a mentor who has previously transferred, and they are someone who you can meet with weekly to talk about how that experience is going. We have weekly questions like, “How did your first round of tests go, or how are you preparing for finals? What are you doing for self care?” Stuff like that. And then we meet once a week and do either programming or activities. So, we might go to The Heidelberg restaurant and all sit down and eat appetizers and talk about our week, or we might have the Student Success Center come in and talk about how we can utilize their resources for our academic success. Or we might go and get involved in the community. We did Caring for Columbia. We volunteered at The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri. So, things like that are really awesome. Oh, we also do things like meet-and-goes. So, for example, during Homecoming season, it can be hard for transfer students to kind of get involved with that or find friends to get involved with that, so we’ll do things like meet-and-goes where we’ll all meet at the Student Center and get pizza, and then we’ll all walk over and see the house decks. Or for example, we also did one where we met up and we went to a gymnastics meet, which is really interesting. A lot of us had never been to one of those before. We also did one where we met up and went to the True/False Film Fest and saw a film together. So it’s a really awesome way to kind of get involved in the community more and kind of have those people that you can go to places with.

Moderator: [00:04:44] Yeah, that’s awesome. And so, Chancellor Cartwright, you’ve talked about your own transfer experience before. Is your experience similar or familiar to Jordyn’s in any way?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:04:54] Similar in some ways and different in others. You know, I transferred a long time ago, and I think we probably didn’t have the infrastructure at the time to be thinking about special needs of transfer students. How do you get them better integrated and connected with the institution? And so, when I transferred from a community college — Kirkwood Community College — to the University of Iowa, I remember showing up on the first day — the orientation day at Iowa — and I remember just not feeling like I understood what was going to happen, right, and how I would actually make it through the semester at the university. Because it was a different experience. It was different from the community college. And so, I look back and I think it would have been beneficial to have something like TEAM, something where you get connected to other transfer students.

Moderator: [00:05:54] Since you’ve arrived, one of the things you’ve focused on is facilitating the transfer process for students. What are some of the ways Mizzou is doing this, and why is it important that every student feels like they belong here?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:06:04] Yeah, you know, we have spent a lot of time thinking about transfer students, and what we’re interested in is that every student that comes to Mizzou should have an opportunity to be successful. So, how do we anticipate challenges, problems that any particular student might have coming in and then provide mechanisms to minimize those effects. You know, I quote the book “The Inner Game of Tennis,” and I talk about the fact that your performance is equal to your potential minus the interferences. And we have so many students that have terrific potential, and those interferences can be so many small things, right. If you’re a transfer student, not knowing where to go to get certain things, not knowing even where the buildings are and maybe, you know, others in your class, they may have been here already two years and they don’t understand that you don’t actually know where the next place is. And so, how do you open up and start asking for help? All of those are things that would minimize those interferences. The other thing that Jordyn mentioned, which is absolutely the case, is that sense of community. Having people you can connect with makes a huge difference because you then feel that you belong, you should be here, you’re part of this community. And it’s great that you’re able to get together with other transfers and other students and have those opportunities to participate and go and be part of so many activities across the institution. We also look at, you know, what does it mean to transfer? Which courses transfer? And we are working certainly with the community colleges. We’re working very closely in Missouri with a number of the community colleges on articulation agreements, making sure that everybody understands if they go to a particular community college and have a certain degree, that then those classes will transfer, and it will make it easier for the student when they get here with whatever major they’re going into that they’re aware ahead of time what could transfer. And we even have some agreements like the MizzouMACC program, where their students are both a Moberly Area Community College and a Mizzou student, and they’re able to benefit through that and take classes at both locations. This allows us to have them long term when they transfer, and they’re already familiar with the institution. It gives them — we hope — an advantage to be successful. And long term that’s what we’re here for, right? Is that there are so many different paths that people can take towards getting to the end degree that they’re interested in, and we want to ensure that whatever path they take, that we’re not the place where they’re going to stumble. That they come here — it doesn’t matter how many other institutions they’ve been at — they come here, they’re able to then integrate and feel at home within this environment. And once you feel at home, when you feel that this is where you belong, that sense of belonging gives you the support you need to be successful. And that’s what this is about, so I’m glad to hear that Jordyn is actually involved in the TEAM effort.

Moderator: [00:09:38] Oh, of course. And so, you mentioned a lot of things, and I think the biggest thing is interference, and I don’t think that’s something that’s mentioned enough in referring to transfer students. And Jordyn, I don’t know if you touched on this, but what do you think was the most challenging thing as you transferred to MU?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:09:53] I think the most challenging thing was maybe just making friends. A lot of transfer students live off campus, so in a way they’re disconnected. You know, they don’t spend time in the dorms. They aren’t in those Freshman Interest Groups (FIGS).

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:10:09] I had the same experience, yes.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:10:11] So, they don’t have those shared experiences or those shared fails. So, even just like spending a little more time on campus hanging around — like going to the different lounges — can really help. But another challenge, I think, was adapting to the coursework. A lot of transfer students experience something called “transfer shock” their first round of tests, which is where maybe they didn’t think they needed to study as hard. And then, obviously, maybe they didn’t do so well in those first round of tests. So, I think adjusting to class sizes, coursework, just the swing of things academically can be really challenging.

Moderator: [00:10:53] Aside from the things you mentioned, what advice would you give current or prospective transfer students?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:10:59] I think as much as I said, get involved. Getting involved can really make the campus seem a little smaller. Also, just as a transfer student, really pushing yourself on campus to talk to someone new. Again, like hanging around campus a little longer, maybe joining one class or joining a new club or something. And of course, join TEAM. TEAM is like a safe place for students to express themselves and how they’re feeling — if they’re struggling or if they’re doing really well. It’s for transfer students to really grow and be successful here at Mizzou.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:38] You know, Jordyn, it’s interesting you mentioned, you know, the making friends and the transfer in and that experience of having lived off campus, right. And I had the same experience because I was living off campus when I transferred to the University of Iowa. And it is very difficult then to get integrated with a group of students, and you’re coming in to a class — if you’re going in a particular major — where people have already made their friends. They’re connected, and they have their study groups and now you have to somehow figure out a way to get involved in those groups. And that’s difficult for anybody. One of the things that triggered in my mind, too, is that there are students here on campus, too, who transfer from one degree to another, right? And they experience similar challenges because you go from one — you were in with one cohort within a major — and now you move to another major, and you’re again having to make new friends. Of course, if you’ve been here longer, you have that base of friends and others that you’ve been interacting with that helps you, but it’s still a challenge to be able to transfer — even within.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:12:47] And even I know we have some transfer students who might take a couple of years off from school and then come back to college.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:12:54] Uh huh.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:12:55] So, I know, for me, I had already had two years of college under my belt, and so transferring into the J-School I was in classes with a lot of freshmen. And so, there was kind of an age gap there, and I know for some there’s an even larger age gap. But even that’s kind of difficult to connect to students who might be younger than you, who might have just graduated high school and you have maybe been out of high school for six years.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:18] Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think that’s something you and I could talk a lot about, because I was already in school for a couple of years and then transferred to engineering, and I started over as a freshman.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:13:31] Yeah.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:31] Right? So, I started taking classes with a lot of freshmen. And so, I had a very similar experience — I was older than the rest of them and having to adjust to different coursework and different expectations and how do you get connected to all of those people? Can I ask one other question of Jordyn, too? And that is you mentioned earlier a number of the things that you pointed to weren’t even in the curriculum, but they were extracurricular, right? How do you get to know the places to go with other people who are transfers? And how important is that to you that you have that opportunity outside of classes?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:14:12] Do you mean like, I guess, how important is it to go to extracurricular?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:16] Yeah. You mentioned a club — that joining a club would be important.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:14:20] Okay.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:20] How do you think that that helps you with success at the university?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:14:25] Well, it just — again, you have another home on campus and you meet more people. I know I joined Mizzou Alternative Breaks (MAB) my first semester, which was kind of a really big leap and something where you kind of just sign up for a service site and you get paired with like nine random people and you travel across the country together. I know I was paired in a group of girls on a women’s advocacy trip, and we drove like 19 hours to New Mexico together and had this awesome experience. And, you know, we’re all from different backgrounds. There was actually a transfer student in that group. So, that was a really awesome experience to meet new people, to kind of have a shared experience, and so now I’m actually leading a Mizzou Alernative Breaks trip this fall for a weekend trip that is specifically for transfer students. So, TEAM will take a trip together somewhere to a county in Missouri this fall and kind of have that shared experience together.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:15:25] I only ask that question because I’m a big advocate for people getting connected outside of classes and doing lot of extracurricular activity because I think it benefits you overall as a person.

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:15:36] Of course. Even joining — like I know I joined a number of journalism clubs — and they don’t require a lot. You know, you go a couple of times and then when you walk around the J-School, you’re like, “Oh, hi, how are you?” Because you’ve already seen them, you know. They’re all in the same clubs together.

Moderator: [00:15:50] Right. I definitely feel like if you don’t join clubs, if you don’t make connections outside the classroom, you’re not taking full advantage of what college is truly offering. Well, thank you all again for sharing all of your experiences with us today. Now there’s just one more thing to do before we leave. Why are teddy bears never hungry?

Jordyn Bensyl: [00:16:10] I don’t know.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:11] I have no idea.

Moderator: [00:16:11] They’re always stuffed!

Everyone: [00:16:12] (Laughing)

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:15] Ah! Very good. I like that one.

Moderator: [00:16:19] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU master’s student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the Quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode. See you around the Columns!