Students attempting to navigate the overwhelming web of campus resources now have help, thanks to the newly expanded student mentor program run by the Office of Student Life.
The program began two years ago as an attempt by OSL to offer advice to incoming freshmen via group e-mail and one-on-one appointments. Between Sept. 15 and 19, however, the program expanded by sending e-mails to juniors and seniors, as well as different e-mails targeted to athletes, transfer students and graduate students. Sophomores received their first e-mails last Spring Quarter during the program’s experimental phase.
Britt Andreatta, director of first-year programs and leadership education, said she modeled the program on a similar program already in use by the Educational Opportunity Program and the International Students and Scholars organization after seeing how effective it was within each campus organization.
Andreatta said she recognized the potential success of such a program when applied to the entire campus. The program grew from there, she said.
“When it became clear that the freshman program was working for us, we thought, ‘You know, this would probably work for other people too,'” Andreatta said. “We started the sophomore program about halfway through last year, and right away we got responses from sophomores thanking us.”
Building upon the program’s success, Andreatta authored a proposal that called for full expansion of the program to target all class levels, transfer students and athletes. After the Division of Student Affairs approved the program, Andreatta and a selection committee of students and faculty members hired the 12 mentors, who are drawn from other campus departments, such as admissions, to staff the program.
Dennis Viau, a transfer student mentor, said he thinks the program will be especially effective in targeting those students who might otherwise not have known where to turn for advice.
“Often with transfer students, it’s difficult,” Viau said. “Their peers know the campus so well, and they really need a little help getting acclimated to the new environment. Typically we refer them to the right department because they just don’t know where to go, but I think that’s true of a lot of the people we help.”
In addition to offering advice on academics and student life, the program targets students with issues specific to their year, Andreatta said. Mentors offer advice on graduate school applications or career opportunities and remind students of approaching deadlines.
Costs for the program are relatively low, Andreatta said. Staff members volunteer their time – approximately 10 hours of e-mail and appointment time a month – in addition to their other positions. Administrative expenses are estimated at no more than $2,000, drawn from the $1.75-per-quarter student lock-in fee approved for OSL.
Andreatta said she believes the low operation cost will encourage other large public universities to enact similar programs.
“We’re definitely ahead of the game with this – I know for sure that we’re the only UC with this program, and one of the few in the country,” Andreatta said. “It’s a different way of working and very easy to put into place. I wouldn’t be surprised if we launch a trend. Students get more support and universities don’t have to spend money hiring new staff.”
Junior biopsychology major Miles Ashlock, who served as a student member of the mentor selection committee, said he believes the new program will be effective in satisfying various students’ needs without overwhelming them.
“It’s a place people should come with any questions or needs they have, but its not intrusive,” he said. “They can use it if they need to, but they don’t have to.”
Andreatta said the greatest objective of the program is to simply help students realize answers are available when questions arise.
“Most students are so busy that it’s hard for them to find time to use the resources available to them on campus,” Andreatta said. “We’re building this communications network so they can find those resources much easier – so they realize someone is looking out for them.”
Student mentor newsletters will be sent to student U-Mail accounts around the first of every month, beginning in October.