Pay it forward
Tasked to develop a college success program, Theresa Thomas decided to dream up the program she would have wanted when she was a student at The University of Texas at Austin.
“I would have been the ideal candidate for a program like this because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” said Thomas, the director of student advising at the Moody College of Communication. “I always felt like everybody else knew exactly what they were doing. They just had it together, and I was like, floundering.”
Moody College Success Scholars launched in the fall of 2018 as an extension of the campus-wide Student Success Initiatives program. Moody College Success Scholars is designed to help students who come from different cultural backgrounds adjust to the fast-paced college campus environment, which can often be overwhelming for new students. It pairs incoming freshmen with a mentor who is able to guide them through their first year of college.
The students have regular meetings with their mentor around campus where they discuss academic questions, social questions or anything else where they may need advice.
By offering a supportive friend group at the start of their college career, Moody College Success Scholars helps ease the transition during the first year on campus.
Thomas pulled from her own college experience when she was tasked to develop the program. She remembers feeling overwhelmed as a non-traditional college student at UT. Her background made her feel different than her peers.
“I grew up really poor in a single-parent household and went to majority-minority schools my whole life. I was a first-generation college student,” Thomas said. “I never lived on campus. I came for a year and took a year off. By the time I came back I had a six-month-old and worked a full-time job.”
Thomas felt like she made more connections with faculty members than classmates. She didn’t feel like she could relate to her peers.
Thomas understands that students come into UT every year feeling lost or overwhelmed. However, more importantly, there are just as many students who, like Thomas, have been through it and want to help out the next generation of students.
“I feel like they’re just younger versions of me,” Thomas said. “I want to give back. They want to give back, and it’s just a cycle. It’s nice.”