Mentoring program launched for first-generation students

Anzhelika Tolstikhina

Washburn University is launching a unique program dedicated to providing dual benefits to first-generation students and retired faculty.

Five years ago, Washburn delegates participated in the First-Year-Experience Conference where they learned about mentoring programs that exist in many universities across the country.

Inspired by the Emeriti Mentor Program from University of California San Diego, which has a variety of mentoring programs based on matching different individuals to improve academic success, Washburn acknowledged the importance of bringing in a similar project.

Last week, the Center for Student Success and Retention, located in Mabee Library, began the recruitment of mentors that will be preparing the up-coming first-generation students for a successful college career.

The first-generation student project is meant to be beneficial to the alumni professors as well because of an opportunity to continue their active involvement at Washburn University.

The program is yet to be named, but the kickoff is scheduled for the summer of 2016.

The Center of Student Success and Retention are utilizing their first volunteer alumnus in the recruitment process, which has resulted in about a dozen retired faculty who have eagerly signed up to become mentors during just the first day. Rick Friedstron, a Washburn graduate, dedicates every Tuesday morning to prospecting the potential Washburn alumni through telephone calls.

At UCSD, the Emereti Mentor Program fits students with retired professors based on academic interest. Successful matches provide knowledge to the first-generation students in regard to their future growth in academic, personal and professional dimensions.

The project was founded in 2006 by Melvin Green, former biology professor at the University of California San Diego. The founder wanted to help low-income students that are new to a college experience. As of today, the Emeriti Mentor Program has grown to have almost 50 mentors and close to 100 students that are getting career guidance. On the other hand, alumni faculty view their service as worthy and satisfying.

The process will begin with local high school students who get nominated by their schools after being determined to be the first generation students in their family.

“After the summer we will turn our attention to the full semester,” said Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries.

With the Ichabod Success Institute, students will participate in the first academic camp during the upcoming summer that will proceed for five weeks.

Washburn University is now looking for additional alumni professors who would like to dedicate three to four hours per month toward this endeavor.

The mentorship program is purely volunteer-based and does not involve academic tutoring. The matching process will occur through developing a set of criteria rather than through random assignment.

Additionally, Washburn will provide new mentors with a training program for guidance and support in their service.

Alumni who are interested in volunteering for this project or know other alumni professors, especially who retired recently, can contact James Barraclough.

“It is going to be a lot of training, a lot of conversation about just being a friend, helping students develop grit. In other words, teaching them that when the going gets tough, it is not time to give up,” Bearman said.

“My expectation is that this program will improve student success and retention, will help first-generation students feel more comfortable at Washburn, have a better sense of what the university degree leads to and have support from mentors when the going gets tough,” Bearman said.