Christopher ‘Mac’ McCormick, 36 from Colorado, is the student services manager at Tulsa Welding School. Mac joined TWS in August 2016; he moved over to Student Services in April this year.
Thanks for your time, Mac. Tell us a little about your background.
I’ve been working in higher education since 2010. I started out doing graduate assistance work, then I moved into admissions, working with high school kids to help them further their education. Then I moved into a counselor-type position at that campus. It was a job that hadn’t existed prior, and I did it for about three years. I then moved into adult admissions.
That was all back in Colorado. I moved here in 2015 and did adult admissions again, but the job was in Oklahoma City, a 122-mile drive each way. Tulsa Welding School called me to see if I’d be interested in joining the Financial Aid team. I did that for about 18 months, then I applied for the student services manager position.
What does a Student Services Manager do for students?
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My main goal is to get them to graduation through monitoring attendance, monitoring grades and being there for them if any concerns come up. Sometimes my job is life counseling. Students can have little problems that they think are really big. I help them put things into perspective. I just do anything I can to help them graduate.
Do you see your role as that of a student counselor?
My main focus is keeping students in school. But yes, sometimes that includes counseling them to help them see the light. There are some things that students come to see me about that don’t even pertain to school. I’m a disabled vet myself, so I have a lot of veterans who, if they’re having a bad day, can come chat with me, and we’ll share old military stories. There are other guys who come to see me because they’ve got girl problems! I guess I’ll do anything I can to help our students, and that does include listening to them, helping them solve problems if I can.
There’s no such thing as a typical day, then?
Correct. Every day is different. I could be advising a student who’s headed the wrong way, or giving a big thumbs up to a student who has turned it around.
How do you describe your relationship with students?
If you ask students on campus, they’ll say, “Mac keeps it real.” That’s why they like talking to me. If they need to be told how it is, they know that’s what I’ll give them. They know they’ll get truth and I’ll motivate them. If they come to me with a problem, I’ll try to give them an A or B option. That’s it. I think they really do appreciate that.
What made you apply for this job?
Seing students get to graduation. Seeing students who were heading down the wrong path, the ones who weren’t going to make it, turn it around and be successful. That’s probably the most rewarding part.
Do students come find you, or do instructors send them your way?
Both. I get a lot of students who come in with an issue; maybe they’re going to miss some time and don’t know their options. Then I also have students who have missed quite a bit of time and an instructor tells them they need to come see me so we can develop some kind of plan for them, to try and correct whatever is going on with them. But it’s not always for bad things!
Do you try to touch base with all students?
I try to. I go through the lab a lot and make conversation with a lot of them. I make an effort to visit classrooms and common areas. I want people to know me and know that I’m here to help.
Who is in your team?
There are three of us. I work with the registrar and the student enrollment coordinator, Mike Gregory.
When does a student first meet you?
Typically at orientation, then I visit them in class twice while they’re in Phase One, just to give them an overview, map out expectations and see how things are going.
What access do students have to you? Do they need appointments?
No, they don’t need an appointment to come see me. Students get my cell number, and my office is always open. Obviously, if I have someone with me, they can take a seat. Tuesdays and Thursdays I work late; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I work regular hours. In week two of every phase, I’m here until 11 p.m. on the Wednesday of that week.
What are some typical questions that students ask of you?
Questions dealing with absences are the main ones. Other than that, nothing really stands out.
What advice do you have for new students starting at Tulsa Welding School?
What’s the secret to getting though the program? Being here. These instructors will literally hold your hand to help you succeed. But attendance is key. In my short time, those I’ve seen who haven’t made it or have gone from being straight ‘A’ students to straight ‘F’ students—it’s been attendance. Attendance is the one factor that will help you get through the program. That’s why students get recognized for it. Employers also ask about a student’s attendance record. So be here.
I also tell students that school is tough, but a future without an education is tougher. Life can be tough for 7 months, or it can be tough for 70 years. You have to decide.
What can a student do to help you help them?
Be here. I keep going back to that, but in my short two months, I have watched great students get off track because of attendance. I try to bring them back to where they used to be.
What’s your favorite student story from your time at the Tulsa campus?
There’s a student who I’d been trying to get through to for a month and a half. After several visits to my office, she finally saw the light I guess. She was almost out of school because of her grades. But I finally got through to her, as she finished her previous phase at the top of her class. She only missed a couple of hours where she had been missing almost half the time. She’d never finished top of a class in her whole life. She had her mom come to watch! I’d been telling her for a month and a half that she had this potential, so now she can finish strong. She’s on track to graduate.