Parent Newsletter - July/August 2013

Dear VMI Parent:

To the parents of our incoming Rats: 

The Miller Academic Center would like to welcome the parents of our incoming Rats! Both nationally and here at VMI, we see very successful high school graduates arrive with what I 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! A team of First Class cadets and I met with Summer Transition Program (STP) participants in July by conducting 18 workshops on academic success strategies for VMI. In “VMI 101” the upperclassmen gave 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. They enthusiastically encouraged the students to apply for AC 101/102 (see below). Students who were not able to join us on Post for STP received a letter from the MAC with those valuable insights so that they, too, could benefit from the “been there, done that” perspective. Upperclassmen have also been helping the MAC prepare free copies of THE College Success Planner© that will be distributed on Registration Day to all incoming Rats. Plans with the S2 staff are underway for a series of Academic Saturday workshops this semester. The first one will be on 8/31 to discuss effective study skills including tackling the reading assignments and taking effective notes in class. The S2 staff and the MAC will continue a relatively new program called “Major Study Times” (MST). For the first four Mondays of the semester, Rats will be required to meet by major after Supper Roll Call (SRC) for a briefing on major-specific strategies for success. The MSTs will be led by successful upperclassmen in that specific major. The message is loud and clear: “Get out of Barracks and study!” It will also give Rats an opportunity to connect with their BRs and upperclassmen in their major to develop a learning community.  

Collaborations with faculty are also instrumental in the MAC’s efforts to serve our Rats. The MAC is working with COL Dellinger (Modern Languages and Cultures faculty member) and a team of faculty members in the second year of the pilot of AC (Academics) 101 and 102. These courses provide proactive instruction and skill development to 50 Rats throughout their first semester. The involvement of upperclass cadets every Friday will again be essential to the courses’ relevancy and effectiveness! Assessment of the courses’ effectiveness will inform VMI as to how we can best serve all Rats in the future. In Operation Excel (OE), MAC staff, Army ROTC faculty, and upperclass cadets will work with their scholarship Rats to provide a semester-long program to instill positive attitudes, behaviors, and effective strategies. The MAC will also collaborate with AFROTC faculty and cadets during the weekly Leadership Labs to ensure those Rats are getting the support necessary to achieve academically at their highest level. 

Both Rats and cadets will be participating in Group Study Sessions (GSS) offered for a number of the intro 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 are expanding an enhanced version of the program (GSS+) this fall with the addition of ME 203 and EC 201. 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.  

To the parents of our upperclass cadets: 

The MAC is dedicated to working with all cadets at VMI! Especially with the “academic Ratline” of the Third Class year in mind, we offer the Seminars on Academic Success (SAS) program. MAC staff members discuss various academic success topics such as time management, effective study skills, etc. in brief (30 minute) sessions during designated times. All cadets receive an email each week with the details for the upcoming seminar. SAS is designed to help upperclassmen improve and/or fine tune their methods of academic success. Time is always available for questions and answers about the topic of the week as well as any other aspect of academic success. This program should be of particular interest to cadets aiming to earn Academic Stars! 

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. Upperclassmen 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 continuing through the fall semester and getting to know 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. Cadets can walk in or make an appointment with us. You can visit our homepage to see the schedule for the programs. I 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! 

Sincerely,

LTC Elaine Humphrey, Ph.D.
Director, Miller Academic Center
Director of Teacher Education