8 Steps in Administering a Peer Mentoring Program

October 31, 2010
New college students often feel overwhelmed and intimidated, especially at large schools. University-wide mentoring programs are a great way to help students get acclimated to their new environment. A mentor can show freshman and transfer students where their classes are, where to get meals, where to go for academic help, and can help them utilize other resources on campus. However, matching a mentor and protege (as we call new students and transfers) is not a simple or quick process. Here are eight steps our university uses in order to administer and nuture the mentoring relationship:
 
1. Applying to be a mentor:
All of our mentors first turn in an application to the mentoring office. The application asks for some personal information (address, phone number, e-mail, etc.), the mentors major and GPA (a certain GPA is required to be a mentor), their hobbies, the activities they are involved in on campus, and it also asks questions about how often the mentor wants to contact the protege. Many mentors are extremely busy and only have time to help the new students about once a month. That’s fine because the mentors are unpaid volunteers; we can’t force them to do anything. Also, once new students feel comfortable, once a month seems to be sufficient for many of them.
 
2. Requesting a mentor:
While every new student CAN have a mentor, none of them HAVE to have one. In order to have a mentor, the new student needs to fill out a request form, which asks for the same information as the mentor application (with the exception of the students’ GPA). The mentor requesting process occurs either at their orientation or once they get to school in the fall.  
 
3. Matching mentors and proteges:
Throughout the summer, the mentoring directors spend countless hours going through each application in order to match students. They usually match them based on major and school activities. This is because most majors have specific requirements and deadlines that only someone else in the major would be able to help the new students with.  However, some new students have special requests such as gender, race, sexual orientation, hometown, or amount of contact wanted.  
 
4. Starting the mentor/protege relationship:
Once a mentor and protege are matched, the protege’s information is emailed to the mentor. The mentor then contacts the protege (this is usually sometime in July) and asks if they have any questions about placement tests, roommates, living situation, meal plans, etc. From this point until school starts, the mentor usually contacts the protege about once a week. The proteges are nervous and excited and often have tons of questions! From a mentor standpoint, it’s really fun to see how excited the new students are!  In many instances, new students will express their concerns with their mentors. That’s exactly why we’re here for them! They stress about not getting along with a roommate, how to study for their first tests, and just about anything else that may be of concern for them. Mentors are seasoned college students and can guide the proteges to helpful resources.
 
5. Mentoring during the proteges’ first semester:
After about three weeks, the proteges start to find their niche on campus. They have less questions and begin to try to find things out on their own. Mentors usually back off a little bit and let the proteges become independent. However, we still contact the proteges about every 10 – 14 days to see how things are going with classes, roommates, etc. One of the most stressful times of the students’ first semester is scheduling for the spring semester. Mentors are a great resource for that because they have done this multiple times before.
 
6. Mentoring during the proteges’ second semester:
At this point, most of the proteges are on their own and don’t need much help. The mentoring office still sends out weekly emails with helpful campus information and resources. Mentors and Peer Mentoring Coordinators still contact the proteges to see how things are progressing with their classes. Once the school year ends, the mentor is no longer responsible for answering the proteges’ questions. However, most mentors and proteges remain friends throughout their time at college. For most proteges, their mentor was their “first friend,” and they continue their relationship outside of the program. 
 
7. Peer Mentoring Coordinators:
As mentioned previously, the mentoring department has “Peer Mentoring Coordinators.” These individuals are student workers that are responsible for facilitating the relationship between the mentors and proteges. They send out the weekly emails and about every two weeks they contact either the mentor or the protege to get their prospective on the relationship. They ask if the mentor has contacted the protege (to make sure that the relationship has been established), if they have met in person, and if the mentor is helpful. If the mentor and protege give the same report, we assume everything is working out and check in less frequently. If the mentor and protege give conflicting information, we try to work out the issue. If the issue cannot be resolved, we reassign a new mentor for the protege.  
 
8. Role Modeling and Personal Conduct:
As a mentor, it is important to lead by example. In college, new students pay close attention to the actions of older students. It is important to be mindful of your comments as well as your actions. Using profane language or gossiping about people is a bad example to set for new students.  It is also inappropriate to break the law by consuming illegal substances or behaving in an out of control manner. These are all inappropriate behaviors that we do not want to pass on to new students. While we encourage the new students to get involved on campus and do fun things, we also encourage all of the university students to make sound decisions. Good mentors with positive attitudes and behaviors are a vital aspect of university settings.
 
This program is intended for freshmen and transfer students.  It is all about them and what they need to have a successful first year at school. In addition, mentoring is a rewarding activity for older students. Becoming a mentor was important to me so that I could help new students, and I’d encourage you to do the same.
 
Hayley Simpson is from Pittsburgh, PA and is a senior Sport Management major at California University of PA.  She worked in the university’s athletic department for about two years and then decided to work in the mentoring department as a Peer Mentoring Coordinator.  She was also a volunteer mentor for two years.  She is still involved with the athletic department as well as the Sports Management Club. You can follow Hayley on Twitter @Hay2422 or email her at SIM0489@calu.edu.
 

Student Affairs & Graduate School: A Brief “How-To”

October 26, 2010

I remember the day I decided to pursue a career in student affairs as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in my apartment and texting back and forth with my supervisor. He said he was going to Penn State University in the coming days to register for dissertation classes and to speak with his advisor. He asked if I wanted to go and talk with the chair of the master’s program to see if this would be a career I would be interested in.

Prior to this conversation, I had my life planned out. I was going to teach, become a principal, earn a doctorate, and become a superintendent.

I thought about my experiences as a RA, student government member, and Student Trustee. I really enjoyed my experience at Bloomsburg University, but was this something I wanted to make into a career?

After speaking with the program chair and a bit more with my supervisor, I decided to apply to graduate school. After a two-month rat race of researching schools, registering for the GRE and speaking with advisors and professors, I submitted application materials to schools. After several interviews and campus visits, I accepted an offer from Bowling Green State University. There I would have a two-year assistantship as a Graduate Hall Director in the Office of Residence Life.

As I think back to my journey from undergrad to graduate school, I want to offer advice for those considering going to grad school for a master’s in student affairs.

  • Know thyself – I took a chance on a new career path and it has been rewarding. However, graduate school and student affairs are not for everyone. Graduate school should not be an avenue to delay “the real world” (for those going from undergrad straight to grad school). Likewise, viewing student affairs as an extension of undergrad or to “relive the best days” are two poisonous thoughts. Going into student affairs is a commitment to helping college students develop the necessary skills to be successful and mature adults.
  • Start early – My journey was unique. I did not make a decision until the end of September that graduate school was my next step. As a result, I rushed through certain steps and did not get the recommended preparation time for the GRE. Give yourself enough time to make correct decisions on how many and which schools to submit applications, who to ask for recommendations, drafting application essays, and proper preparation for the GRE.
  • Be prepared to get and give rejection – One of the key words you will hear on your search is “fit.” Just as schools are considering you, you have to consider the institution, program, and location. I interviewed with several schools (who accepted me into their program), but I felt it was not the best “fit” for me. Likewise, I was rejected from many programs where I thought I had a good “fit.” I learned to be honest with each school through the process. If you feel it is not a good fit, be open and honest with the department/program chair.
  • Patience – Everyone works with deadlines. Every school has a different deadline date, review date, and interview date(s). Being patient and trusting the process is all part of the application process.
  • M.A., M.S., or M.Ed.? The difference between the types of degrees depends on whom you ask. Traditionally, the M.A. is viewed as a generalist degree; having transferrable skills and prepares one for a variety of jobs. The M.S. is viewed as a degree with one specific focus such as microbiology or organic chemistry. The M.Ed. is rooted in educational disciplines such as guidance counseling, curriculum & instruction, or instructional technology. Whatever the type of degree it is, it will vary institution to institution, and in most instances, you will find answers in the program curriculum guide.
  • Type of Program – When researching student affairs graduate programs you will come across a variety of program names. Some of the more common program names include College Student Personnel (CSP), Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), Educational Leadership with a focus in Higher Education, and Higher Education Administration (HEA). While these names sound similar, their functions can be different. Some programs are student development focused while others are geared towards the administration within student affairs and/or higher education in general.

Below are two excellent web resources you can use when considering graduate schools for student affairs:

American College Personnel Association’s Directory of Graduate Programs

National Association of Student Personnel Administrator’s Graduate Program Directory

Steve Knepp (@stevenknepp) is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com


Organization Member Development (Free Assessment Activity Sheet)

October 3, 2010

 

The members of your organization are your lifeblood. Always remember that your organization’s success is solely dependent upon its members and their regular participation. Many organizations’ senior leaders can concentrate on executive board business and easily forget their members. Remember to put your members’ interests first and put time and strategic thought into developing your relationship with them while they are members of your organization.

  • Find out why your members are involved in the organization. People join clubs and organizations for many varied reasons whether it’s for skills development, gaining new knowledge and experience, or purely for recreational and social reasons. Knowing specifically why each member is involved will help you determine what you need to do or what activities to develop and provide in order to keep them interested and participating regularly. Simply put, meet their needs.
  • Regularly check in with your members. I once learned that people don’t care about you until you show how much you care about them. This rings very true regarding your organization’s members. If they feel personally disconnected at meetings and activities, there’s a good chance that they are going to stop participating.  

 

  • Give members a reason to stay active and involved. People’s time is important so treat your members almost like they are customers; treat new members like they are prospective customers. If you’re not meeting their needs or the organization activities are perceived as not fun or simply a waste of their time, they will stop participating.
  • Praise members publicly and thank them often. Make time during meetings to praise members for their participation and the good work that they do for your organization. Make a habit of thanking members often. Simple gestures such as giving hand-written notes, public posts on social networking sites, and other small tokens of appreciation will be accepted by your members with great welcome.

Click for a free Member Development Assessment activity. Please feel free to share it.


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