Virtual MAGIC is Success

August 18, 2020

Connections made – √. Introductions to Michigan State University and peers accomplished – √. 2020 Maximizing Academic Growth in College (MAGIC) successful – √.

Some members of MSU’s incoming freshman class have already met and connected to classmates, as well as peer assistants and staff of the Office of Cultural & Academic Transitions (OCAT), part of the Division of Student Affairs and Services, as they participated in the annual summer program, MAGIC. The difference – they have yet to meet in person.

During its 24 years, MAGIC has helped with retention and graduation of first generation college students and students of color at a predominantly white institution. Connecting students to a culturally diverse community, MAGIC helps students to navigate life at college while helping to build community. 

Traditionally, MAGIC participants come to MSU for a week prior to the start of fall semester to connect and learn, to help ensure a successful first year. As in previous MAGIC programs, this year’s group of incoming students were introduced to academic, cultural, professional and social success strategies, along with opportunities to interact with other students, peer assistants and OCAT staff. This summer, however, the coronavirus pandemic forced the program to a virtual platform, using ZOOM and D2L each Wednesday, from July 15-Aug. 12. 

Being in a virtual setting didn’t thwart participants enthusiasm for the upcoming academic year. As they exchanged numbers and promised to connect while participating in MAGIC’s closing awards ceremony and celebration, these new Spartans also offered support and cheered on their classmates. 

College is a new experience, and even the most successful students may underestimate the challenges they may face as they transition from high school to Michigan State University. Through MAGIC, new MSU students gain information, assistance and questions answered from staff and student peer assistants, and opportunities to make connections with others in their class, making the transition easier and helping them navigate through MSU to have a successful first year.

Incoming MSU student Bryan Dwyer Jr. said MAGIC changed his view on college and made him feel more welcomed and encouraged, especially during the pandemic.

“MAGIC will help me become a successful student through the resources provided and the family aspect it gave everyone who participated,” Dwyer Jr. said. “If you ever have a problem, you can reach out to your MAGIC family for help and know that they have your back.”

Students gathered on Wednesdays via ZOOM for workshops and presentations and then broke out into groups that evening with OCAT staff and peer assistants to discuss the presentation to ensure students understand and comprehend the information.

One of those students, Shweta Rajendra Adsul, joined from India even with a nine-hour time difference.

“Being an international student who has never been outside her own country, I know college is not going to be easy. Everyone needs the right guidance before they start their college journey, so I thought to myself, what could be a better way to start than to be a part of a vibrant and culturally diverse group of peers and mentors?” Adsul shared with MAGIC. “I feel much more confident about beginning my journey at MSU, all thanks to the MAGIC program." 

She added that group discussions are a favorite of hers because she saw things from other perspectives.

Participants are not the only ones positively affected by MAGIC. Darryl Ervin, a peer assistant and alumnus from MAGIC 2018, said, “Being a PA (peer assistant) for MAGIC’s first virtual program was truly an honor! The bonds and relationships that were formed over the five weeks were like no other.”

Ervin added he appreciates how committed the participants and the staff were to make this year’s MAGIC program great. “Extremely impactful program,” he said. 

Peer Assistant Natalie Spence called the MAGIC program “an amazing experience.”

“Although we were on Zoom this time around, the connections and lessons have been just as fruitful as an in person session,” Spence said. “The MAGIC program is an experience that allows MSU students from marginalized communities to get a head start on the school year, connect with classmates and fortify bonds that will last a lifetime.”

Students who participated in MAGIC and peer assistants will continue to connect with each other, as well as with OCAT staff, through the MAGIC Success Initiative (MSI) to build on lessons learned this summer. Throughout the year, there will be monthly programming, focused on academic support, social support, leadership development, cultural enrichment, community service, financial literacy and career exploration, continuing to expose students to opportunities and people to support their success at MSU.

Mission of the Office of Cultural & Academic Transitions (OCAT)

The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) constructs supportive cultural, social and educational communities that actively involve students in learning. OCAT supports individual students in their navigation of cross-cultural encounters, and in their own understanding, exploration and development of cultural identity. Student-to-student interaction is the key to benefiting from diversity, and OCAT strives to bring together individuals as well as groups of students from diverse racial, ethnic, international, and domestic backgrounds for meaningful interactions. In part, OCAT accomplishes this mission by building critical alliances with peoples, programs, and ideas throughout the university. Additionally, OCAT helps students to better understand themselves and others through cultural, social and academic activities.

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