First-Year Mentoring Program helps Students Succeed in College

The First-Year Mentoring Program aims to broaden first-year college students’ academic and professional networks. It’s about sharing information and knowledge with others. 

A coordinator of the mentoring program and Student Success lecturer, Steve Hageman sees this program as a way to help students combat the struggle of transferring from high school to University.

“For students in general, particularly first-generation students, they don’t have somebody who they can turn to with questions about how the university works,” said Hageman.

The mentoring program was created in 2016 based on Washburn First-Year Experience. Any first-year students can participate in the program and benefit from it as it is not required to be a first-generation student.

“The college is changing very quickly, and the college 20 years ago is different from today,” said Hageman. “Even parents that have gone to college may have gone to very different types of colleges, and it’s been a while.”

More than 160 people in the Topeka community have agreed and signed up to be mentors.

A fellow of the mentor program, Trae Shelton, a senior majoring in accounting and economics, thinks that mentors can play a critical role in the success of the first-year students.

“It’s a way for students to get matched with community members,” said Shelton. “The mentors help students along through college, answering any questions they have, like what class to take, if they were here what professors not to take, life choices or career choices.”

The mentors provide support and encouragement to students who come to them.

“Their college and career was not exactly filled with no obstacles. They went through stuff and came out through the other end. It’s nice to have somebody on their side who has been through things and supports them,” said Hageman.

First-year students can face many difficult things in the new environment of college.

Another fellow of the program, Shelby Herring, a junior majoring in English, sees the program as a good way to guide the students through the intimidating first year of college.

“They struggle with College lingos and not knowing what a lot of things mean,” said Herring. “Some questions are how you are supposed to get to class on time, how you can’t just leave, how to email professors and where things are on campus.”

The mentors know about these difficult things and can give helpful information because they’ve been through it too.

“It’s really nice to have a peer mentor who’s not an authority figure, not parents or professors,” said Herring. “They (mentors) specifically…know what they’re talking about and want to help you.”

Ben Guerra-Arreola, a junior majoring in biology, is one of many students part of the program. He has kept a relationship with his mentor, John Haverty, since 2016.

“The mentor is a bonus for me,” said Guerra-Arreola. “The mentor gave me tips and advice, and he’s pointed me at the right direction the past three years. Right now, I am more confident than I was before.”

Haverty helped Arreola make contact with his advisor, provide study tips and give advice on time management.

“Having more free time in college, he (Haverty) taught me how to manage my time wisely and get myself organized better,” said Arreola. “If I put enough work, in each class I could be successful, and it reflects on the grade.”

Students who want to participate in the mentor program can create an account on the online platform, Handshake, where they can see all 160 mentors’ profile.

The mentors’ profiles include who they are, which field they are in, what they are good at and their hobbies and interests. Students can go through and filter the profiles they see so they can find somebody they think would be a good match for them.

The First-Year Mentoring Program will host a workshop at 4 p.m. on Oct. 25 in Mabee Library 205. Free pizza will be provided. Students can learn about the program and sign up for a mentor. 

The program is recruiting more first-year students. If students want to be a part of the program, they can begin with an account on Handshake. To know more about the mentoring program, go to the program’s website or contact Steve Hageman at [email protected].