A Word to You: Q&A with Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Life Corbin Smyth
Corbin Smyth is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Life at UMD, a position he has held for five years. Smyth received his Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, Master’s Degree from the University of South Carolina and Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He loves living in Duluth, and in his free time enjoys mountain biking, hiking, coaching youth baseball and spending time with his two sons.
Q. In your opinion, what is the best part about being a new college student?
“There are so many great parts. The excitement, the unknown, the anxiety and the challenges are what I think make it great. Leaving something behind to get something new, and not always knowing what lies ahead. I still have vivid memories of my first week -- meeting new people, establishing new relationships and realizing I was becoming a new person. That’s why high school graduation is called commencement: it’s the beginning of that new life and new experience.”
Q. What are your favorite areas of campus? of Duluth?
“One of my favorite areas of campus is the new Kirby Lounge. It can provide a quiet environment for students to study, but it is also a place filled with activity if that’s what you’re looking for. The Multicultural Center has that same feel as well, where there are semi-private offices but it feels like a welcoming space at the same time. The fact that both of these places are centrally located in the heart of campus, I feel, is completely intentional.”
“In Duluth, I really like to go to Brighton Beach. There’s the rocks and the waves, and it’s not super busy because it isn’t a sandy beach. I really like hiking at Lester Park and Hawk Ridge as well.”
“I think that students have got to visit these places that make Duluth special. Hartley Park, Enger Tower, Canal Park and much more. Many students won’t have a car, but there are many resources available to them to get to these places.”
Q. What are a few examples of ways new students can get involved on their campus?
“After Welcome Week, there are many ways in which students can get connected right away. If students are really involved with their faith, there are several religious groups and services on campus. If they’re involved as an athlete, look for when intramural signups happen for the various teams. Club sports teams are available for them too.”
“Students should definitely go to the Activities Fair as well. That takes place September 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Kirby Terrace. It is a great, easy way to get exposure to a lot of groups. They also just need to see what’s out there for themselves to find what’s right for them.”
Q. For those students with a specific desire to be a leader, what are some ways they can get involved in leadership on campus?
“If interested in leadership and student government, there will be freshman elections for Student Association. That information will come out September 1. They can run for freshman president, vice president and five student representative positions. They are all held specifically for incoming freshman students.”
“Besides those seven positions, just getting involved in different groups early and volunteering for roles in a student organization really helps to start building credibility with them. And if students find that a particular group isn’t for them, there’s no pressure to stay in it. It’s all about finding what is right for them.”
“In the future, if a student finds they are really enjoying a particular class, I would encourage them to talk to the professor and express interest in possibly becoming a TA. Becoming an RA or Rockstar are also ways for students to build leadership skills later on in their college career.”
Q. Where are some of the best places to check for student organizations or activities that one might be interested in?
“The Activities Fair will be huge. The Bulldog Link website (z.umn.edu/bulldoglink) is the conduit to all student organizations, and is nice because you can search keywords for any groups that one might be interested in.”
Q. What are some of the newly remodeled areas/projects-in-progress on campus?
“The new Superior Dining Center has been a huge transition that was just finished last year. The CAMS (Chemistry and Materials Science) building is getting ready to begin construction, and this incoming class will be able to take advantage of that by the second semester of their sophomore year, so that’s something to get excited about. It’s expanding our footprint for the sciences: state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, more opportunity for better interaction with faculty and higher student capacity.”
“There will also be a brand new track around the football field, and a Romano Gym renovation is on the horizon that we’re hoping to get funding approved for in the near future.”
Q. Are there any new policies going into the school year?
“No new policies that I’m aware of, but one huge thing new students need to be aware of is the attendance policy. They need to attend that first class, and if they can’t, they have to make contact with their professor. Not attending the first class is a message to the professor that you are not coming, and that professor might open that spot for someone else.”
“What’s not a policy, but is good practice, is being smart when looking for off-campus parties. Students should look for opportunities to engage socially off-campus, but they should know where they are going, who they are going with and who they are coming home with at all times.”
Q. Are there any student resources here at UMD that you think aren’t utilized enough?
“I think the Tutoring Center is by far the least utilized resource by new students on campus. It offers excellent peer tutors, excellent leadership and understanding of the classes and specific faculty. If you already know you’re not strong in a particular subject, get assistance from the Tutoring Center right away before you get stressed out with a bad grade later in the semester. The smartest students take advantage of the Tutoring Center early in their college career.”
“Another area that should be utilized more by new students is the Career and Internship Services. Students should not think they should wait to get connected with this resource until the last couple of months before graduation. They can consult about choice of major, career path and potential internships, so this is another great resource that should get utilized more.”
“The nutritionist in the Superior Dining Center is also a great resource for students who have allergies, specific dietary requirements or desires, and many students don’t know that we have a nutritionist on campus specifically for them.”