SMART Start Program

Minnesota State University Moorhead is committed to creating a culture of student success and completion. SMART Start is part of this commitment. Short for “Student Mentoring Academic Resource Team,” SMART Start is for admitted MSUM students who identify as any of the following:

  • African American/Black
  • American Indian/Alaska Native – Indigenous
  • Asian/Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • First-generation
  • Pell Grant eligible

The primary goal of SMART Start is to help students transition successfully from high school to college. SMART Start provides programming that removes social and psychological barriers that can inhibit students from succeeding at college in the classroom and outside the classroom. After completing SMART Start, students will have made meaningful connections with their peers, student mentors, and professors. 

What are students saying about SMART Start?

  • I met my best friend through SMART Start and it helped me transition a lot easier to college life.” – Araceli Spotted Thunder, Cultural Anthropology
  • It changed my life.” – Emily King, Social Work
  • I graduated high school with a class of 30. Being able to transition to college with a similar sized group before the traditional welcome week was such a crucial move for me, and has helped me in more ways that I can explain.” – Brianna Bradley, Music Industry
  • It was a fun experience. I made great friendships that last.” – Hannah Andrusko-Starks, Cultural Anthropology & International Studies

These are the major components of the SMART Start Program:

  • Early Move-in
    Students who participate in the program can move in early with the cost of early arrival covered by MSUM.
  • Connection and Belonging
    Through a variety of academic and social programming, students will have opportunities to build community and make connections. The cohorts are peer-led, and many of our SMART Start Mentors were previous participants in the program!
  • Academic Course Component
    • Enrollment in a math course (placement is determined by your ACT/SAT or your Math Accuplacer score) AND Math 101, A critical-thinking math support course which begins the week of the program and continues into the first semester. The course fulfills two graduation requirements: completion of a First Year Experience (FYE) and Liberal Arts and Sciences Curriculum (LASC) Goal Area 2. 
    • First Year Experience (FYE) An introductory course to the demands and challenges of higher education. The course is designed to help students develop the critical thinking skills needed for both personal and academic success. The course is a graduation requirement for students entering MSUM with less than 24 transferrable credit hours.
Aracelia Spotted Thunder - SMART Start Mentor
Araceli Spotted Thunder (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Anthropology (Cultural) & East Asian Studies (Japanese Lang/Culture)

  • Campus & Community Involvement: American Indian Student Association (AISA), Rainbow Dragon Learning Community (previously in Global Connections LC), Programming Assistant in Office of Diversity & Inclusion
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: My favorite aspect of MSUM is that faculty and staff are willing to listen to student concerns. They hear us out and do all they can to help us.
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I am excited to meet incoming mentees! (And to move in early.)
  • Fun fact: I was one of the few competitors from the Pine Ridge Reservation at the International Youth Poetry Slam: Brave New Voices.

Autumn Schaeffer - SMART Start Mentor
Autumn Schaeffer (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Social Work

  • Campus & Community Involvement: Club volleyball, Rape and Abuse Crisis Center volunteer, YMCA after school child care, Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: Smaller class sizes to better connect with professors
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? Seeing new faces ready to start their future at MSUM and to help the SMART Start students adjust to their new situations
  • Fun fact: I’ve been playing volleyball for 9 years now and I can make a three-leafed clover with my tongue (:

Courtney Strobel - SMART Start Mentor
Courtney Strobel (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Undecided

  • Campus & Community Involvement: Intramural volleyball and I work at the Boys and Girls Club
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: My favorite aspect of MSUM is the campus size. Everything is easy to get to and since campus is smaller you actually get to make connections with people and become familiar with a lot of faces.
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I’m looking forward to meeting new people, the activities that we’ll get to do together and welcoming the SMART Start students so they feel more familiar with campus.
  • Fun Fact: I was born in Honduras so I’m fluent in Spanish and I’m also terrified of worms.

Emily King - SMART Start Mentor
Emily King (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Social Work

  • Campus & Community Involvement: American Indian Student Association, Rainbow Dragon Learning Community, Volunteer Work at West Central Regional Juvenile Center
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: My favorite aspect is the close community I have with the LC I am a currently in.
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I’m excited to move in early so I do not have to deal with the anxieties about move in day.
  • Fun fact: I was a part of a winning video for the 2015 The Great American No Bull Challenge at a national level titled “Paper Hearts”.

Kayla Roehrich - SMART Start Mentor
Kayla Roehrich (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Undeclared but currently taking business courses and thinking about minoring in Communications.

  • Campus & Community Involvement: Apart of the BSU-Black Student Union, STLF – Students Today Leaders Forever, College against Cancer, Chi Alpha small group and the Smart Program. I volunteer at the Cats Cradle shelter. I work in the Deans Office College of Science, Health, and the Environment in Hagen Hall. I have a job off campus at Clubhouse Hotel and Suites in Fargo, ND.
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: The smaller campus so getting involved is a great way to meet new people from all parts of the world and make lifelong friendships.
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I am looking forward to the impact I will make by creating memories and getting a chance to see a new perspective as a mentor this year.
  • Fun fact: Last summer I spent my 18th birthday in France while studying abroad as a graduation gift to myself.

Maurice Smith II - SMART Start Mentor
Maurice Smith II (he/him/his)

Senior, Film Production

  • Campus & Community Involvement: Diversity Dance Crew, Korea Club
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: The community it brings together as well as the opportunities it provides.
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I am looking forward to meeting students and going to Maplewood State Park.
  • Fun fact: I want to live in another country for my career.

Samantha Bloodsaw - SMART Start Mentor
Samantha Bloodsaw (she/her/hers)

Sophomore, Business

  • Campus & Community Involvement: Black Student Union, Cru, record the football team, learning community, Emerging Leaders, SMART Start
  • Favorite aspect of MSUM: Pretty campus
  • What are you most looking forward to about SMART Start this year? I can’t wait to meet all of the incoming freshmen
  • Fun fact: I was the princess of Columbia Heights

For more information contact:


Zinnia Marquette (She/Her/Hers)
Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator
Diversity & Inclusion Office
Send Email | Phone: 218.477.2476218.477.2476
CU 120D

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