From Shy to Shining, Student Life Helps Students

Michael Stephenson and Celeste McNiel, Student Life at TAMU-T

It might be a surprise to some that the Coordinator of Student Life at TAMU-T was once a shy, introverted and antisocial adolescent, but it’s true. However, thanks to an attentive Director of Student Activities at his alma mater, he was encouraged to participate and engage with his peers and began to find his place in society.

Michael Stephenson began with the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, linking together vendors, talents, agents and performers who would like the chance to get booked in the college market.  He met Celeste McNiel, Director of Student Life, there at the conference in Tennessee and later was offered a job opportunity here in Texarkana at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.

“I oversee freshmen and transfer orientation and help acclimate them to campus, really show them the ropes for their first year here.”  

He and Celeste also help recruit campus organizations; if any student wants to start a club, they’ll see them.  TAMU-T has around thirty organizstions, two of which are Greek.  The University even allocates a budget for clubs and organizations to help pay for students to attend conferences in their respective club’s interest.

Students who are more involved and engaged with their community are more likely to retain their studies and graduate.  TAMU-T focuses on providing plenty of extra-curricular activities for students to build relationships with one another and the university.

“We are teaching them transferable, real life skills from these co-curricular and extracurricular activities,” Stephenson explained.  “ I know firsthand it can be difficult to find a job if you don’t have any real work experience.  Students are coming in here and planning events and working with agents to establish contracts.  They are also learning conflict resolution skills within their own organizations.”

TAMU-T offers a co-curricular transcript for students that combines their educational transcript with their extracurricular commitments.   The University’s staff is working endlessly to ensure their students and graduates are ahead of the curve when it comes to landing a job, especially for those students who may not have had any other experience outside of home.

“We are really just here to help students with anything they need in order to succeed and graduate,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson and McNiel recall one student in particular who they assisted in overcoming personal obstacles and find his passion.

“We had a student come in a few years ago as a freshman that attended an intramural event; and it was obvious that he was under the influence of something.  However, when a student gets in trouble at the University we usually try to implement some kind of sanction.  He had to take a substance abuse course and complete community service hours.”  

She continued, “we tried to discover what he was interested in and we found that he was passionate about sports. Part of his judicial sanction was that he would serve as a referee for sports.  He got out there and he was the best one we ever had and he was doing it for free. There are regional tournaments for intramural champions and this student was later selected to go down and referee for a tournament.   It’s just a great example of how something bad turned into something good”

The Student Life staff at Texas A&M University-Texarkana are fully committed to not only helping students succeed in education, but in their careers and lives.  It’s the individual passion and commitment of a select few that enable others to find their place in school and build their confidence for years to come.

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