By Kirsten Fenn
Those looking to benefit from some mentoring from their peers at Carleton can now access training and resources in a central place, thanks to a new initiative at the Student Experience Office (SEO).
The Mentorship Network, located in the Tory Tunnel, is a hub where students and staff can tap into existing mentorship programs, training and resources, and connect with a mentor or mentee.
“Here at Carleton, we’ve had a number of mentorship programs,” says Andrea Hogue-Reynolds, the network’s mentorship co-ordinator. “But we’ve all kind of worked independently.”
The network fosters collaboration between those programs and create a shared understanding of what mentorship at Carleton is all about.
Since opening this fall, the Mentorship Network has trained 150 student leaders from the SEO, the International Student Services Office, Residence Life Services and the Sprott School of Business.
Thanks to them, hundreds of Carleton students benefit from peer mentorship each year. From 2010-2015, nearly 1,000 students participated in the SEO’s First-in-Family program and Bounce Back, which helps first-year students who are struggling academically.
This year, as many as 120 mentors and 600 mentees are expected to participate in Bounce Back and the new First-Year Connections program.
“We had hoped to partner with a couple of programs and the numbers are growing as word spreads about the opportunity,” says Hogue-Reynolds, adding that more partnerships are in the works.
Not only is the network building peer-to-peer relationships, but it provides students with skills and experiences they can apply to their resumés or co-curricular records that include volunteer work.
“We already know that students want to support each other. We see that it happens informally all over campus,” Hogue-Reynolds says. “It’s really a neat opportunity for us to formalize the training and provide them with the opportunity to represent the work they’re already doing.”
The benefits have come full circle for some students, like second-year psychology major Hendrik Tilma.
A former mentee in the First-in-Family program, Tilma is now guiding five of his own mentees through the challenges of first year – from finding campus services and time management to connecting with other students.
“I told my parents I was going to university and they were like: ‘That’s great,’ and not much else,” Tilma says. “I found it super beneficial to have someone who was more experienced than I was to refer to, even if all he was doing was telling me: ‘You’re actually doing very well. You’re on track.’”
His advice to those considering mentorship?
“Never be afraid to ask for help,” Tilma says. “If you don’t end up needing it, that’s great too. Then you’re just doing better than you thought you would.”
While it isn’t going to be a perfect experience for everyone, Hogue-Reynolds says mentorship programs are a great way to connect people who may be struggling to find support networks on their own.
“It’s worth a try, because I’ve seen wonderful student leaders come out of these programs,” she says.
“To have the mentee become the mentor, that is such a sign of success of that relationship and the program.”
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