"I have learned that I am surrounded by faculty and staff that want me to succeed."
When I heard of mentorcommunity@sjsu I was a sophomore here at SJSU. I recognized this opportunity was something that would be extremely beneficial to me in the long run. I am a first generation college student who moved far from home to try and better my future. I had a tough first year, being far from home and adjusting to living in the dorms was something that took some time to get use to. For a while I felt like I was left to figure things out on my own. I consider myself an introverted person but, when I decided to sign up with mentorcommunity@sjsu I was able to gain more courage and confidence. Reaching out to people you don’t know can be terrifying however, I have learned that I am surrounded by faculty and staff that want me to succeed.
Shortly after being matched with my mentor through mentorcommunity@sjsu I decided to start reaching out to professors within my department. I took it upon myself to invite one of my professors to the student/faculty dinner where I was able to connect and establish a relationship with them. I now have a mentor relationship with him and know I can go to him whenever I need anything whether it be regarding an assignment or if it’s me needing a letter of recommendation.
With the mentor I chose through mentorcommunity@sjsu I found someone that I can go to to ask questions regarding anything. She is constantly on the lookout with opportunities she feels would be beneficial to me. Being a first generation student there are a lot of things I don’t tell my parents regarding my college experience because I feel they wouldn’t understand. With my mentor I am able to talk to her about the different organizations I’m involved in and share when I get an A on that difficult midterm or when I make the Dean's List. When I meet with her I feel I have someone who genuinely cares about my success and future.
When seeking a mentor it is helpful to share commonalities with them. This can range from being from the same city, to both of you enjoying the same activities, or even sharing the same music taste. This will help build a strong relationship. Compatibility is key to a successful mentee-mentor relationship.
"Academice Spotlight", September 2016 Newsletter: Mentor Program Pilot Continues for Fall
Janelly Ruiz, a third-year justice studies student, said the first time she met Assistant Professor Faustina DuCros they discovered they had a lot in common. Ruiz did not meet with DuCros in class or through an advising center; she connected with the professor through a new program, mentorcommunity@sjsu, that is designed to pair students who are seeking a mentor with a committed volunteer from SJSU’s faculty or staff.
“I’m from Southern California, so I came up here on my own,” Ruiz said. “I am also a first-generation student, so my parents don’t know about or understand everything I am doing. I wanted a mentor I could share my experiences with.”
Ruiz selected DuCros from an online tool that helps to match students with a faculty member. DuCros had lived in Southern California and worked with legal aid, attributes that made Ruiz more comfortable reaching out to the faculty member.
“I was nervous to send the first message, and it did take a while for her to get back to me, but she finally did,” Ruiz said, adding that the first time they met in person they ended up talking for two hours.
Ruiz learned about mentorcommunity@sjsu through Adelante, the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Task Force. A U.S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institutions five-year grant supports the pilot program. It is one of five initiatives a group of faculty and staff members is focusing on as sustainable best practices for student success.
“We want to provide support to students in the first two years of college,” said Pat Backer, the director of the grant program titled Project Succeed and a professor in the College of Engineering. “Many of our students are the first in their family to go to college, and they are not from traditional college-going backgrounds. They need to learn how to navigate the college environment.”
Maria Luisa Alaniz, a professor in the Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences department and faculty director, worked with Marlene Scherer Stern, the program coordinator who created an online mentor program and community at Stanford, to implement SJSU’s online pairing tool. The goal is to use high-tech tools to promote and increase high-touch mentoring opportunities and experiences. The two hosted a discussion session on Sept. 9 that was open to students, faculty and staff to find out what they believe is needed to expand the program beyond two pilot departments.
“We are doing this roll out very deliberately,” Alaniz said. “We want the program to be integrated into the campus culture. The only way to do that is using an incremental approach to ensure that we are integrating campus feedback as we develop the program.”
The group will be surveying campus community members to find out more about other existing mentor programs to discover how they can collaborate and foster mentorship on campus. A second discussion group will be scheduled in the spring.
In the meantime, Alaniz is visiting select classes within the two pilot departments to recruit students who will complete an orientation before creating a profile on the site. Faculty and staff from across campus are invited to sign up at https://mentorcommunitysjsu.xinspire.com/ or email Alaniz email@example.com for more information.
Ruiz, an intern with the program, is happy to share with interested students how the mentorship program helped her.
“It definitely gave me confidence to reach out to professors,” she said. “When I had other opportunities such as a faculty/student dinner, it gave me the confidence to take the initiative to attend.”
The mentorcommunity@sjsu program is one of several initiatives that Backer and her collaborators selected because they believed the programs could be sustainable once the grant period is completed. Other areas include block scheduling, peer educators and mentors, first-year experiences, and student living learning communities in the residence halls. The activities support SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success plan around student engagement and advising.
A discussion will also be held on first-year experience programs on Sept. 23. It will aim to answer questions about what type of programs are sustainable at SJSU, what will fit in with SJSU’s culture and what students want. Models could include a general education course, an extended orientation model, or programming in the dorms.
“We are looking at funding multiple models next fall,” Backer said. “We are interested in putting it together and running assessments to see which work and which don’t.”
Project Succeed Discussion Session Brainstorming session on first-year experiences and its future at SJSU Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in ENG 285 Lunch will be provided RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/sjsu-discussion or to firstname.lastname@example.org