How to make connections and feel at home at Mount Mary: Advice from a student 

College has the potential to bring about some of the most important relationships and friendships you’ll have in your life. Building connections as a college student happens slowly – and over time. It starts with exploring your motivations for being there and what value (and values) you bring with you.

In college, you can expect to be stretched beyond your comfort zone in many ways as you discover your strengths and areas of potential growth. Community happens when you’re intentional with the time you have and can be vulnerable enough to share your stories with one another.

In this article, one former Mount Mary University (MMU) student, Jamie Hollins, details in her own words her search for belonging as she shares her unique perspective. You might be surprised to learn where Jamie’s journey has taken her!

Student Jamie Hollins recalls her journey to MMU

Some of my best and most meaningful moments and relationships I’ve built at Mount Mary University were a reward of my stepping out of my comfort zone. The beautiful MMU campus became my home in the fall of 2016. I made the decision to transfer in as an undergraduate student very timidly at first but was immediately met with a warm welcome.

I knew that in seeking a place to call home, I was looking for a close-knit community in an area of Milwaukee that is diverse. Inclusivity is a cornerstone at MMU, which is evident by the institution’s mission and vision. The four Cs (community, commitment, competence and compassion) are woven into the framework of everything here.

This is one of the many aspects that have kept me at MMU, from completing my bachelor’s degree to earning a master’s degree in English, and ultimately becoming a full-time staff member working in the Counseling and Wellness Center.

Before long, I realized that the four Cs are the perfect words to describe the very best attributes that connect and bring us together.

Embracing the 4 Cs

Let’s explore these four words and what they mean to us as students who want to form relationships, extend our circles and start to find our place in the world.

1. Community

Community begins in the classroom space where the instructor, you and your peers set the tone. Every new student is required to take a course called “Search for Meaning”, a core class that combines philosophy and theology and centers on discussion and reflection. It truly became a launching point for my passions regarding the university.

The class became a safe space to process difficult topics all together. I recall wanting to go to class early just to have some extra time to chit-chat with classmates. When some of us would get overwhelmed, we’d talk it out and share tips with each other.

Anyone interested in forming even deeper connections within the close-knit MMU community would gain from the Grace Scholars Program, Promise Program, or Caroline Scholars Program. These cohorts are made up of undergraduate students who educate one another along the way as they’re navigating the college experience.

2. Commitment

Commitment to academia can seem obvious, but what about interpersonal development? As an undergraduate English major, I knew if I wanted to get the most out of my time in school I’d need to find other ways to get involved. MMU is a commuter campus, which means the majority of students live off campus. It’s also rich with extracurricular opportunities – everything from the Student Government Association (SGA), Athletics, the Black Student Union (BSU),and the many Honor Societies.

I served as the president of the English Honor Society for two years and attended as many campus events sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement as I could. There was a game night I hosted for English majors and friends in Caroline Hall lounge that resulted in more friendships and great memories. Now, as a staff member, I’m proud to co-advise a creative writing club alongside Dr. Jenni Moody. (Now I’m getting ahead of myself! More about me and my story later.) The point is, if you make a commitment to find ways to plug into the campus community, you’ll have an opportunity to build lifelong friendships.

3. Competence

Competence in terms of the mission means ensuring that students are prepared to go into the world as leaders in their chosen field and for social justice. Since the start of my studies, there have been extremely difficult circumstances that have captivated the nation. Mount Mary University is a place that addresses the hurts of others head-on and seeks input from administration, staff, faculty and students. We have confided in and comforted one another as friends and colleagues going through some unimaginable times.

Also, we celebrate one another in the joyous occasions. MMU equips us to be competent in what we take in as learners, but also to be socially competent so that we can cope with unforeseen circumstances.

4. Compassion

Compassion truly surrounds us from the moment we accept our place on this campus. In my times of food and housing insecurity I have been shown unyielding kindness. Success may be defined differently from person-to-person; however, the student outreach support team is ready to meet you where you are in everyday life.

Additionally, compassion comes in the form of helping you reach your goals beyond the scope of academia and career achievements. It can look like being connected with our bilingual social worker, Crystal Medrano, for support finding childcare or other community resources around the Milwaukee area.

The emphasis of compassion at MMU is always driven by partnership between the students and staff members. This is another niche aspect of the support woven into the framework of our mission and vision.

12 takeaways for making connections at MMU

As you begin your college journey and look to form new friendships, keep in mind these student-tested tips for embracing the MMU culture and community.

  1. On-campus residents should make the most of events put on by their Resident Assistant.
  2. Off-campus residents should try to make a few friends in each course – and maybe start a group text with one another.
  3. Look for on-campus job opportunities before considering employment elsewhere.
  4. Attend at least three different student organization meetings (they often take place over the lunch hour).
  5. Make the effort to reach out to your instructors via email to introduce yourself and communicate any foreseeable needs at the beginning of the semester.
  6. Take advantage of shared spaces on campus like the commuter lounge, Haggerty Library, and the Cyber Café to increase productivity throughout the week.
  7. Invite a group of friends to explore the exciting eateries and shopping areas nearby.
  8. Bring friends or family members to cheer on the Mount Mary Blue Angels athletic teams, attend the annual student fashion show, visit the Marian Gallery or the labyrinth.
  9. Attend the open house event put together by the Student Success Center, tutoring services, and Counseling and Wellness Center to learn more about student support opportunities.
  10. Work up a sweat alongside fellow classmates or form a workout group in the MMU fitness center.
  11. Join a group counseling workshop to overcome grief, loss, anxiety, stress, or depression, or to learn general coping skills and preventive (and proactive) measures for individual success.
  12. Take advantage of the beautiful grounds on a sunny afternoon with a picnic blanket, a good book, a delicious snack – and plenty of water.

Find your place in the Mount Mary community

Some of the best and most meaningful moments and relationships I’ve built at Mount Mary University were a reward of my stepping out of my comfort zone. Check out the resources here and make it a priority to purposefully connect with others. My hope is that for those who come after me to find that they experience the same warm and welcoming environment that I have in the years I have been a part of this incredible community. Who knows? Maybe you’ll also stick around for the long term!