Ask anyone who has been a student at UTMB in the past 30 years, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you they’ve met Mike Cromie.
For going on three decades now, Cromie has played an integral role in working with students all across the institution, first as a representative in the financial aid office and now as the assistant director of student life.
“When I was in financial aid, I saw all students at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t see them again unless they needed to come to me for more money— and those usually weren’t their best days,” Cromie said.
Now, in student life, he gets the chance to see them as they are starting new and exciting chapters of their lives— and he continues to interact with them until graduation. For Cromie and his staff, that opportunity begins during Welcome Weekend, an event held just before the academic year begins to introduce new students and their parents to UTMB culture, and Fall Student Orientation, which was held this year on Aug. 20 and was attended by more than 650 new students.
On that day, Cromie arrived to work well before the sun rose.
By 6 a.m. he made his way to Levin Hall’s foyer to ensure things were set up and ready to go before students checked in at 7. An hour later, hundreds of students had gathered in the Levin Hall Main Auditorium for a half day of presentations relevant to all four UTMB schools. After lunch, students fanned out all across the Galveston Campus to begin their school-specific orientations, which Cromie and his team also coordinate.
An effective orientation program depends on Cromie and his staff planning for the arrival of new students long before they arrive in Galveston. Student Life coordinates program agendas, schedules and presentation content with all four schools, while also staying up-to-date on all of the happenings across campus and staying abreast of ways to best serve UTMB’s ever-growing student population.
And their work to serve students continues well after the official start of classes. During the first few days of each new academic year, Cromie and his team ensure students get the opportunity to learn about not only what is happening on campus, but also in the island community at large.
“For a lot of students, this is their first time in Galveston,” Cromie said. “Besides learning about the various student organizations we have on campus, we also want to make sure they know what’s here in Galveston as well.”
The team—comprised of Cromie, Taylor Sieling and Tori Bradbery—work to share all of the information students need to succeed. They work with student committees to convey information important for students to know, such as different service organizations they can be a part of, where to find certain departments on campus, and even where the closest laundromat is to where they live.
“It’s important that we collaborate with these student leaders because they’re the ones going through these experiences firsthand,” Cromie said.
Student Life’s role is akin to that of air traffic controllers in that they do everything they can to ensure students are well-equipped to succeed and stay on the correct path, Cromie said.
“The last thing I tell them at orientation is, ‘If you have an issue and don’t know where to go, come to Student Life and we’ll help you,’” Cromie said.
During New Student Orientation, Cromie was flooded with questions on everything from the location of the closest water fountain in Levin Hall to where to send vaccine records from a previous university.
“If I don’t have the answer and it’s something we don’t handle in Student Life, we’ll get them in contact with someone who can respond,” he said.
Knowing who to turn to for answers comes with having been on campus so long, he said.
In addition to his team’s involvement with New Student Orientation, Cromie and his crew oversee 90 student organizations and host a variety of activities to help students get to know one another and build friendships outside the classroom or lab. These include movie nights, a holiday bingo event, a fall festi-val and the annual Plazapalooza, which takes place during the first week of the fall semester on the lawn in front of Old Red.
His team is also responsible for coordinating UTMB’s intramural sports leagues; Cromie even plays for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences softball team.
For students, it may seem overwhelming to think about taking up a new hobby or joining a student or-ganization as they’re trying to balance their new school workload. Cromie likes to remind them that bal-ance is the key to success.
“I tell students, ‘You have to take a break,’” he said. “Learning to have that work-life bal-ance is essential, and we’re here to help students find a balance that works for them.”