Chris Ledford has coined a nickname for himself.
“I like to call myself Mr. Rough Around the Edges,” he says.
Having graduated from Knoxville’s Hardin Valley Academy last spring, he’s heading to UTC in the fall with hopes of sanding those edges down a bit. Although confidence doesn’t seem to be a problem, Ledford is savvy enough to realize that he has a lot to learn in college. And not just in class.
“I hope it can tell me a few things that are core to my beliefs,” he says. “I hope it will help me exert my passions. I hope it will create new connections — which should be a given — help me grow my character and help me prepare for the outside world.”
His goals are among many expressed by incoming freshmen who recently completed the first-ever Moc Up program. Over two weeks, about 70 students each week were on campus where, along with cookouts, scavenger hunts and living in the dorms, they were shown the realities of college, not just the fun-filled parts.
“It isn’t a social-based program; it’s academic- and info-based,” says Jason Harville, director of Student Transition Programs. “They realized they’re not just here to have fun.
“Whether they wanted to receive all the info was up to them.”
For those who cared to listen, students were introduced to such topics as: How to handle money now that you’re on your own. How to utilize the support systems in place at UTC. How to maintain study habits and good grades.
At the end of both weeks, students were given tri-fold pieces of cardboard, art supplies and magazines, then told to create a personalized display containing such information as their majors, their goals and mini-bios, plus any other eye-catching elements. Among the added attractions were words such as “inspire” and “engage,” pictures of pizza and, of course, the Power C.
Displays in hand, the students presented themselves in the University Center’s Tennessee Room. Faculty and staff were invited to come down to talk to the students about their majors, their ultimate hopes and whatever else was on their minds.
In the final meet-and-greet, the Tennessee Room hummed with conversation; eye contact, big smiles and firm handshakes were all around, as were well-crafted explanations of their goals and aspirations.
Asked what they’d learned over their week at school, several students mentioned finances. Many said they’d never really thought about saving money while in school in case of emergencies — which don’t include a party-filled weekend. Some said they’ve decided they want to leave UTC debt-free and, to that end, they’re already thinking about investing their money.
“I know how to finance better, building up your credit, keeping up your scholarships, how to save money,” says Kelcey Foxx of Memphis, who plans to major in psychology and criminal justice.
David Smith, who is majoring in exercise science, says he knew something about finances from high school classes, but he deepened his understanding during Moc Up.
“I knew how to budget and things like that, but I didn’t understand how big of an impact savings and emergency funds and stuff like that are, and the fact that not as many people do it,” says Smith, who spent three years in shotput and discus on his Knoxville high school’s track and field team.
Ledford and others say they also were surprised by the multiple resources available to help them work through their first year at UTC — personal, financial and academic.
“All the resources that you have – tutoring, the financial aid office, admissions, the library — I didn’t realize they were all so easily accessible,” says Ledford, who plans to major in biology.
“You think you’re going to be all by yourself,” says Rhadria Maxwell, a psychology major from Memphis, “but there are many people willing to help you and guide you. You’ve just got to reach out to them.”
Harville says Moc Up officials will take what was learned this year and use it to improve next year’s. They also plan to keep an eye on the students who participated, he says.
“We’re following those students throughout their first year and some into second year to see if they do better in comparison to folks who didn’t go through the program,” Harville says.