By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Good food, good company and good karma filled the Hoosier Room last week as the Center for Mentoring hosted its annual kick-off luncheon.
The event welcomed Center participants to campus for the new academic year.
Faculty, staff, alumni and peer mentors took time to sit down with their student mentees in a relaxed and fun social setting, and share news of the summer, the fall term and anything else that happened to be on their minds. For some, this was a chance to get to know someone better, while for others it was another moment in a relationship of support and encouragement that has been nurtured over a period of semesters or even years.
In all, over 52 mentors and peer mentors and 36 mentees attended the the event, showing that the program is not only a strong fixture of IU Southeast life, but is growing as word of its unique rewards spreads across campus. For 2016-17, the program boasts 122 mentors, 29 peer mentors and 318 mentees.
June Huggins, director of the Center for Mentoring, welcomed the guests and dished up ice cream.
“Students should get involved because our mentors provide a personal connection with the student, provide a sense of belonging and a means for students to get engaged,” she said.
Getting involved is not difficult. Once a student has come to the Center for Mentoring and filled out an application, Huggins matches her or him up with a mentor who shares an academic focus, personal interest or other commonality.
For Baylee Krueger, a member of the Grenadiers basketball team and elementary education major from Scipio, Ind., that commonality was basketball. Her mentor, Leigh Ann Meyer, director of the IU Southeast Writing Center, does not play basketball. But her sons had played. That made her a perfect match, able to understand the unique rhythms and pressures of the student athlete lifestyle. That level of trust helped Krueger find her way academically.
“It made it more comfortable to walk into the Writing Center,” Krueger said.
In all, Meyer mentors four students, and they couldn’t be more diverse, validating the “whole person” approach favored by the Center when finding productive matches.
Samantha Titus, an incoming freshman from New Albany, Ind. majoring in English writing who is being mentored by Meyer, has hit the ground running, and credits the mentoring program for her fast start.
At their first meeting, Titus recalls, Meyer connected her with the English club, critiqued a piece of fiction, made her aware of the student literary journal and recommended research conferences that might suit her goals.
“Every door I needed opened was opened, all on the same day,” Titus said.
For Meyer, who has been a mentor since 2008, forging connections on campus is an important part of what the program can deliver, especially to students who are just beginning to find their way.
“Whatever they need, I’ll find someone to help them,” Meyer said.
Rebecca Carlton, senior lecturer and basic course coordinator in communication studies, has experienced the program from both sides. As an undergraduate at IU Southeast, she benefited from the counsel of Diane Reid, senior lecturer in communication studies. As a member of faculty herself, she has now worked as a mentor for 10 years.
“I chose to become involved with the mentoring program as a result of having caring, engaged mentors throughout my life and because I hope to be that person for others,” Carlton said.
Carlton values the intrinsic virtues of advice and guidance, and treasures the friendships that have evolved out of her mentoring relationships. She also sees how they can strengthen persistence and retention at the university.
“Ideally, the mentee is sharing with the mentor his or her thoughts and concerns in times of celebration and in times of challenge,” Carlton said. “From those conversations can come resources and guidance for the student to assist in times when retaining the student could be an issue.”
Carlton’s current mentee is Kaylea Boles, a nontraditional junior from Oldham County, Ky. majoring in psychology. Boles recognized early on the need for assistance to help her stay focused. Carlton has been her mentor since 2014.
“The mentoring program has provided me with the support and encouragement I needed,” Boles said.
Boles sees Carlton as a coach and a friend who has stood by her side through significant life transitions.
“If it wasn’t for the mentoring program, I’m not sure I would have made it this far in my academics,” Boles said. “I am now a psychology major and have been able to direct myself on my own path, and I owe that to the mentoring program at IU Southeast.”
Huggins backs up testimonials with data.
“Research has shown that students who are connected, have a sense of belonging and are engaged are more likely to persist in college,” she said. “Students in the Center for Mentoring are twice as likely to graduate if they participate in the mentoring program.”
Homepage photo: Kim Pelle (l), director of the Adult Student Center and mentor, with mentee Lidy Henry (r), a fine arts major.