Dear VMI Parent:
Both nationally and here at VMI, we see very successful high school graduates arrive with what we call an “understandable but inaccurate assessment of their degree of readiness for college academics and college life.” It is understandable because the educational system has told them that they are ready (high SAT scores, very strong high school grade point averages, etc.). However, the students’ assessment is inaccurate due to the disconnect between high school and college. New college students too often have little to no skills when it comes to time management, reading for comprehension and retention, note-taking, and test preparation and test-taking. These are skills they did not need in high school so they did not acquire them. Then they get to college and find out they are not as ready as they thought they were!
As a result, a great deal of our attention is on your sons and daughters when they arrive! A team of upperclass cadets and Miller Academic Center (MAC) staff meet with Summer Transition Program (STP) participants in July by conducting workshops on academic success strategies tailored for VMI. In “VMI 101” the upperclassmen give the STP students a reality check about the changes they will need to make and the new skills they will need to acquire to continue their successful performance in the classrooms at VMI. Students who are not able to join us on Post for STP receive an email from the MAC with those valuable insights so that they, too, can benefit from the “been there, done that” perspective. Upperclassmen also help the MAC prepare free copies of THE College Success Planner© that are distributed on Registration Day to all incoming Rats. The MAC Cadet Program Assistants (CPAs) are front and center for everything that we do - including the series of Academic Saturday workshops each fall semester. The first one is usually the first Saturday after classes start to discuss effective study skills including tackling the reading assignments and taking effective notes in class. The second workshop is midway through the semester to give the Rats the opportunity to perform a realty check as to how they are doing in their classes considering the competition for their time and attention from the Ratline. The third workshop typically addresses optimizing their Thanksgiving Furlough and preparing for their first experience with VMI final exams. In the spring we continue this proactive approach with the Registration Day workshop (to distribute the planner, discuss lessons learned from the fall about success strategies, and preview the challenges of the Rats' first spring semester including life before and after Breakout). The remainder of the semester we look to the Rats/Fourth Classmen to step up to the plate and make use of the many resources on Post including the MAC.
Speaking of MAC resources, both Rats and cadets are invited to participate in Group Study Sessions (GSS) offered for a number of the intro and upper-level courses. The GSSs are led by upperclassmen who earned a B or higher in the course at VMI and who work closely with faculty. We also have an enhanced version of the program (GSS+). For the GSS+ groups, the faculty member meets with the cadet facilitators outside of the GSS to debrief on the previous week’s meeting and plan for the upcoming meeting. The faculty member also attends the weekly GSS+ meeting with the Rats to serve as a support for the upperclass facilitators. This team approach increases the strength of the program as departments are more involved in the planning and delivery of the information and strategies. Cadets enrolled in the GSS courses receive a weekly reminder about the next upcoming meeting. We also encourage cadets to contact us with any requests for a GSS for courses not already offered.
The MAC is dedicated to working with all cadets at VMI! Especially with the “academic Ratline” of the Third Class year in mind but recognizing that any cadet at any point of his/her cadetship might feel a need to strengthen their academic performance, MAC staff are always ready to meet with a cadet. Cadets can either make an appointment or drop by at their convenience. No cadet comes to VMI with the expectation that he or she will go on academic probation! But if that happens, VMI and the MAC are there to support the cadets’ efforts to become academically successful. For our cadets on academic probation, Project Success (PS) provides intensive support to identify and execute a plan that they create to acquire and use skills and behaviors that contribute to academic success. MAC CPAs work with these cadets to give them the real world perspective as MAC staff members provide the expertise in effective skills and ways to make good decisions, stop procrastinating, and connect with faculty and other resources.
We are looking forward to supporting your cadet either as a first-time visitor/participant or a continuing cadet in the MAC. If your son or daughter works in a leadership role with us, please know how instrumental he/she is to what we are able to do! We depend greatly on them to lead our programs and to provide the MAC with feedback as we continually strive to improve our operations. Their input and involvement are very important to the effectiveness of the MAC!
As a VMI parent, you have the ability to contribute to your cadet's academic success through your support of his or her hard work and dedication to taking the "path less traveled." This is a very special institution and the cadets are themselves very special! I hope that you will encourage your cadet to read our emails, stop by our office (202 Carroll Hall), and use our programs and services. All of our services and programs are free (if you count paying your tuition dollars "free"). You can visit our homepage to see the schedule for the programs. We also invite you to stop by when you are on Post or to contact us with any questions or suggestions you have about programs and services of the MAC. It will be great to hear from you!
LTC Elaine Humphrey, Ph.D.
Director, Miller Academic Center
MAJ Tabitha Coates, Ph.D.