The first year of university can be daunting, with students feeling overwhelmed by the unknown of university life.
This new school year will be even more so, as we all work through changes to a remote learning environment – a necessary pivot due to COVID-19.
To help, Memorial’s Student Experience Office created a student engagement program that will see new students meeting, connecting and learning from senior students.
The Peer Mentor Network program aims to help ease the transition for first-year students by connecting them directly with senior students for peer mentoring for the fall term.
‘Have an impact’
This connection gives first-year students the opportunity to receive guidance from mentors who have been where they are now; fellow students who understand better than anyone what the challenges of moving from high school to post-secondary are like; what to expect during that first year; and who they can talk to about these new experiences.
“As mentors, our senior students are in the unique position of having the privilege of helping shape another student’s life, and have an impact on the course of their university career,” said Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, associate vice-president (academic) students.
“The kinds of questions first-years will be asking our mentors are the same questions they themselves had when they were new. Who better for them to talk to?”
Katherine Dibbon is one of those mentors.
A second-year political science and chemistry student, Ms. Dibbon understands the importance of having support as a first-year student.
“I know how new everything can be when you’re entering your first year at Memorial, and I can only imagine how crazy it is while not being on campus,” she said.
“It is my hope that the Peer Mentor Network program will create support groups, friends and foster the relationships that being at Memorial creates.”
The 123 senior students who applied to be mentors participated in four weeks of extensive training over the summer, volunteering in their spare time to take part in the program.
“Memorial is fortunate to have such highly engaged and enthusiastic volunteers.”
They participated in a virtual kick-off event on Aug. 17 when they connected with fellow senior students and learned about the influence peer mentors can have on a student’s university life.
“Natural networks will develop over time as new students begin to learn and grow and get more comfortable in their new university life,” said Lisa Russell, manager of the Student Experience Office.
“The connections they will make with their mentors, however, will be the building blocks of their social experience in university.”
The network also offers new students a way to start to feel connected to Memorial’s student community at a time when they can’t do that in person and on campus.
“We are very proud of our mentors,” said Ms. Russell. “Memorial is fortunate to have such highly engaged and enthusiastic volunteers who are giving up their valuable and limited spare time to help our first years.”
“I’ve been matched with 20 first-year students and have met a few already during our first meeting last week,” said Ms. Dibbon. “Memorial is known for its amazing community and this program is so important to keep the Memorial community strong. I am so proud to be a part of it.”