One week to go……

Next Tuesday, the mentors first meet the First Years, and we are off, with art historians meeting their buddies. Are we ready? Well, I think so, but this doesn’t make this any less daunting!

Rooms are booked, cakes are ordered, hoodies are being printed, and training for the mentors is either scheduled or will have taken place (well, the first part of it, training and monitoring this scheme will be ongoing for the rest of this semester). So in many ways, it feels like the proverbial calm before the storm at the moment. My main focus at the moment is on sorting out the training sessions that will permit the mentors to qualify for the award of 10 credits under the Nottingham Advantage award Scheme, and I have also spent time on applying for monies from the Higher Education Academy to support a workshop next Spring reporting on the first phase of this mentoring scheme. I have spent quite a lot of time analysing the statements and applications submitted to the arthistorybuddyscheme by incoming first years, to try and get a handle on their understanding of ‘mentoring’ support, as well as get a sense of fears,  anxieties and expectations. The above Wordle is just one of the means I have been employing in this process, and I couldn’t think of a better way to illustrate some of the work that is going on at the moment than include this particular one.

The process of generating this was simple, if labour intensive. All statements made by incoming students asking to be part of the scheme were typed up by me, and from that master document, I created two sets of documents, one capturing the sentences where the students describe themselves, one bringing all the statements together that describe their hopes for the scheme. What you see above is the Wordle that illustrates the latter. Recurring again and again are words that describe emotional states, such as hope, excitement, eagerness with just the odd admission of feelings of apprehension also making a showing. There is a second group of words that again seems very prominent, and seems to cut straight to the heart of the matter about why peer-mentoring: we see transition mentioned, guidance, support, experience and opportunity, but the most prominent of them all is help. The third group of words that stands out for me are words that reflect on mechanisms of how this may be achieved, and there the students voice expectations that insiders’ tips, tricks and information will be passed on.

All of this provides quite a bit of food for thought for me, and will undoubtedly help in shaping the content of some of the sessions for the scheme.  The statement by the mentors will also be put through Wordle in due course, as I want to get a sense of whether my two groups of students are thinking about this scheme in similar ways. So, plenty to learn, but this is why we set this up in the first place!

One week to go… All seems very close all of a sudden and while I may be just a bit apprehensive about how this will work out, well, we will never know until we give it a go. And I will of course let you know once the legendary hoodies arrive. As I said before, wish us luck, and follow our progress both through the blog and on Twitter @UoNArtH_Mentors

Gabriele Neher

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