By Meliyah Venerable / Managing Editor 

Missouri Valley College students now have a new texting buddy, Thor the Viking. Associate Dean of Students Elizabeth Bellamy along with the help of the student success center staff has brought Thor to life. Students now have the ability to contact Thor via text message with virtually anything they need. 

Thor the Viking, shown here with Sharon Hoeflicker, Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Academic Affairs has recently started texting with students at Missouri Valley College. (Photo courtesy Missouri Valley College via Twitter)

Bellamy explained that the goal of the new program was to find the easiest way not only for the student success center to reach out to students but give the students a way to reach out without having to make an appearance in someone’s office. 

“Well, a couple different things inspired the whole thing. I have been trying to figure out for a long time what’s the best way that we can reach out to students and make it easy for students to reach out to us, with anything they need,” she said. “ We are always telling students that the Student Success Center is kind of your one-stop shop for anything that will get you where you need to go, we will help with any problem that thing’s too big or too small and we’ll hook you up with the resources that we have available kind of thing.” 

When searching through various programs and speaking with different colleges and universities, they found the perfect program on Edsight.io. The site allows them to control how Thor is able to respond depending on the message received. They are able to link different resources for students, as well as answer simple questions like what the cafeteria hours are. Although Thor is completely run by the computer the Student Success Center is able to view responses to reach out to the students in need. So you will get a direct response from Thor but a follow-up from someone.

The four main focuses of the program are academics, financial, social engagement, wellness. The first message from Thor went out on January 12th. Since then 99% of the students have opted into the program, and Thor and the student success center have received over 660 messages. 

Students seem to have mixed feelings about the artificial intelligence program. They are concerned about the privacy aspect. Some want to just be able to talk to Thor without getting a follow-up from Student Success. 

“I was really excited for the Thor the Viking automatic text messaging stuff,” Kaylee Herring said. “I was like ‘wow I finally have a robo friend that I can talk to because I don’t have any real friends’ and then it was like ‘Hey if you say anything concerning I might have to talk to a real person’ and I feel like I can’t talk to him because I don’t want him to rat me out.”

But other students think that Thor could be a good program to bring to Valley. 

“I like Thor the Viking messages because it’s very helpful to know where to get help even if you know where to go,” Jenna Sparks explained, “I think it’s beneficial to the students, especially new students that don’t know their way around campus.” 

For the future of the program, Student Success wants to be able to message certain groups on campus. They are able to message certain groups of students, whether it is based on class year, or sports and activities you participate in. They want students to interact with Thor but not to be afraid to stop in the Student Success office.