SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy smcsc.edu) — Spring break is a time to relax, blow off some steam, and get your mind right for the rest of the semester. This year, two dozen Spartanburg Methodist College (SMC) students chose a staycation, sticking around campus to brush up on their studies, build up their career skills, and have a little fun at the Summit.
“To have this many students commit their entire spring break to academic recovery and/or career development was outstanding,” said Megan Georgion, director of internships and employer relations at SMC. “We were able to engage one-on-one with participating students and the reactions were positive.”
The SMC Experience team, or SMCX, the campus’ student and career development team, created the Summit in 2018 to help students who were struggling academically. Students participated in leadership workshops, study skills courses, personal coaching, and presentations from guest speakers to help them improve their studies and develop skills to help them succeed going forward.
Vice President for Student and Professional Development Courtney Shelton brought the program to SMC as a tool for students to better understand the demands of a college education.
“Every student is unique and encounters a variety of situations in college. The Summit was created to provide support, community, and accountability for students,” Shelton said. “The goal was to help students feel freshly motivated to put in the hard work, to realize it is not too late to improve their grades, and to allow them to hear from successful community members with similar stories of why hard work matters.”
Traditionally held in the fall semester, this year the Summit was moved to spring break, partly due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The SMCX team also added a career development track this year to teach students skills to help them when they enter their careers.
Students in the career track attended courses on interviewing, networking, career matching, and learning soft versus hard skills. All courses were directed at helping them prepare to get a job, be comfortable in the workplace, and succeed. This follows SMC’s commitment to supporting students from enrollment to employment. The coursework was derived from the College’s unique Camak Core professional development program.
“I thought the Summit programming was superb. It went beyond my expectations,” said Josh Golden, a sophomore from Columbia, S.C., who will be moving into the SMC bachelor’s degree program studying English and psychology next fall. “It expanded my knowledge on how to conduct and market myself in the workplace and showed me how to differentiate between ‘ordinary’ and ‘excellent’ skills.”
As part of their coursework, students participated in mock job interviews to help them hone the skills they learned. They also took a Meyers-Briggs assessment to learn more about their personality traits and how to put their strongest qualities to work for them.
Students on the success track took advantage of their time at the Summit to catch up on classes they were struggling in, catch up on coursework, and learn ways to improve their study habits going forward. Sessions on time management, executive functioning, and positive mental health provided students with insights into how to better approach their college careers.
“I liked the program a lot, and the ability to make up what I was missing in some classes was a great opportunity,” said Selena Hope Martinez, a junior from Inman, S.C., studying criminal justice and psychology. “My favorite part was the lesson in time management and getting new planners to keep track of our schedules and prioritizing important things first.”
Students from both tracks were provided career and success advice during a group presentation from Will Lane, owner of the Chick-fil-A franchise at Westgate Mall. Lane shared some of his career lessons with the group and encouraged them to take hold of their own success.
“You’ve got to have a ‘why’ that’s going to get you up in the morning,” he told the group. “What are you going to do today to be in a better place next week? How are you setting yourself up to be the best you that you can be?”
Lane talked with the students about making choices that will get them closer to their goals. He highlighted this point by asking students to think about how they spend their time and what they are filling their mind with as he raised his cell phone and pointing out that they had all the information in the world at their fingertips but it was up to them to decide what information they were consuming.
Lane discussed the importance of understanding that their decisions now will have an impact on their future and shared a clip of an interview with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking “How do you treat people? You can’t do good later if you don’t do well now.”
His final piece of advice for the students was to live life like an interview and treat every interaction like an interview by being professional, attentive, and inquisitive, so they always put their best selves forward.
The SMCX team, understanding that these students had given up their spring break to attend the Summit, also provided some relaxation and recreation for the students. A movie night, beach night, game night, and dessert night were all held during the week.
Giving up spring break is not an easy choice. Whether catching up on classwork or learning key skills for their future, students participating in the Summit improved their path going forward.