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Education students benefit from mentoring program

April 4th, 2007

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Peer mentors Monica Bryant, Lauren Ertel and Megan Brantley staffed a booth at the College of Education and Human Development Spring Carnival.

By Todd Wetzel

Sophomore education student Sherry Hand knew she would face stiff competition to enter the College of Education and Human Development’s elementary education program when she applied earlier this year.

Talking with her academic adviser helped, Hand said, but she still was anxious.

“I just wanted to talk with someone who had already been through the process and could provide some personal insight into what I could expect,” she said.

Hand found solace in the college’s Peer Mentor Program, which pairs sophomores with junior and senior student mentors in the same major.

“My mentor looked over my portfolio and kept me on task during the application process,” she said. “Learning what she went through when she applied has helped relieve my stress.”

The college’s office of student services started the mentoring program last spring with a Student Success-Engagement-Satisfaction Initiative Grant from the Office of the Provost. Those grants funded academic programs to improve engagement and motivation among second-year students.

Education developed its Peer Mentor Program to build camaraderie among students while encouraging them to become actively involved in and out of the classroom, said Il Barrow, director of education admissions.

“The advising that students traditionally receive is prescriptive: what classes they need to take, how they can maintain good academic standing, what steps they need to complete to prepare for an advanced degree,” he said.

The Peer Mentor Program combines prescriptive advising from professional academic advisers with developmental advising from student mentors “to nurture students as effective citizens and help them develop leadership skills, confidence, honesty and character,” he said.

Prospective mentors go through a rigorous application process and two rounds of interviews. Selection criteria include good grades, involvement in campus organizations and demonstrated honesty and trustworthiness.

Seven mentors currently work with 17 second-year students.

One of them, Lauren Ertel, a senior health and human performance major, has been a mentor since September.

“My sister shared with me what the different courses were and how professors taught,” she said. “I wanted to be a mentor to help people who may not have had that kind of help.”

Ertel calls or e-mails the student she mentors once a week to see if she has questions or wants to talk. She also has attended Health and Sport Sciences Club meetings with her to encourage her to become active outside of class and to meet other students and faculty.

Sophomores and their mentors, however, are not the only ones to benefit from the program. Education’s student services office is applying lessons it learns from the program to help graduate assistants and work-study students benefit more from their work experiences, Barrow said.

Alan Ruehlman, a master’s student in college student personnel services, oversees the mentoring program’s operation. He works closely with academic advisers Kirsten Armstrong and Melissa Boam to supervise mentors, plan program events and meetings and keep everyone informed of program activities.

“I’ve learned a lot from our mentors, but I also look at the people in the office as mentors for me,” Ruehlman said. “They have helped me see my potential and pull more out of me than I thought was there.”

Last month, Hand was accepted into the elementary education program. She credits her success to the relationship she developed with her mentor.

“Having a mentor I could relate to has been so helpful for me. I would consider becoming a mentor myself,” she said.

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