Peer Mentoring as a means of helping transition from school to university?

Mentoring. Everybody seems to be talking about it. Take a look, for example, at this report on The Guardian from Friday, 10 August, 2012:

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/higher-education-network/blog/2012/aug/08/mentoring-higher-education-careers?post_gdp=true

about ‘Mentoring: building relationships that benefit qcademic careers’. Maybe the most succinct summary of why mentoring is such a worthwhile activity to enage in comes right at the beginning of the article:

Making the case for mentoring, Janni Aragon says: “Most academics do not enter graduate school knowing how to artfully construct a CV, apply for a position, grant, or give conference presentation. It is only through our networks that we can find out about pertinent information and opportunities on campus and in higher education.”

Basically, a mentor can be somebody whose experience is used to facilitate somebody else’s transition into a similar position. It is so obviously the right thing to do, it is so obviously beneficial to all concerned that one wonders why there isn’t more of it about….

But, I digress; this blog, arthistorybuddyscheme, serves one main purpose, and that is to record and document the adventures and experiences of a cohort of students at the University of Nottingham, Department of Art History, School of Humanities during the academic year of 2012/13. A group of student mentors in their second and third years respectively will act as peer mentors to the incoming cohort of Single and Joint Honours Art History students. The mentors have been selected from a pool of applicants, while their mentees can opt in or out of the scheme when they first register with the department. So, at this stage, days before the A-Level results are announced that will lead to students confirming their University places, the scope of this project remains unknown. Will there be 10 students interested in being mentored or 50? It all helps with keeping us on our toes, I suppose, but the expectation based on perceptions of mentoring as something positive is that most incoming first years will elect to be set up with a peer mentor.

Once we have the numbers confirmed, the mentoring groups will be set up, and then come the preparations for the big day, when mentors meet their buddies. The mentors will at this stage have attended some preliminary training, and will continue to be assisted, supported and, dare I say it, mentored, by an experienced member of staff throughout this process. Experiences will be recorded via this blog, and we are supporting the project through social media such as Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We see student mentoring as a key initiative in enhancing and enriching the Nottingham student experience. By focussing on key moments of transition (such as Week One, exam periods, study patterns, accommodation), student mentors will provide a first point of contact for ‘new’ students who are still learning the ropes. The student mentors are carefully trained and monitored with a view towards gaining important leadership skills, while buddies are offered the opportunity to gain a deeper and more directed transition experience. Ultimately, happier students are more able to achieve their academic potential, so at the key of this project is a wish to engage all students more fully with their experience at university. It is vital that students in their first year are encouraged by their peers/mentors to appreciate the opportunities open to them throughout their time at university to develop intellectually and socially as well as in terms of future employability.  It will also give the students in the mentoring role a new part to play in the life of the Department and give them a sense that they have valuable skills and knowledge to pass on to the cohorts following them.

Well, that is the plan anyway. Wish us luck?

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