As COVID-19 forces universities to go online, new and first-generation college students have their sense of belonging challenged before they even set foot on campus. To get ahead of this problem, Indiana University South Bend’s Titans Mentoring Titans Program has partnered with Mentor Collective to take their mentorship online and help students feel at home even when they’re learning from home.
IU South Bend worked with Mentor Collective to build an online platform to provide first-time students with personalized upper-division mentors to support their connection to IU South Bend, help them adjust to college, and facilitate their student success. They wanted to go beyond basic orientation and develop a full life cycle mentorship program with students to deepen their connection and sense of belonging.
What initially attracted us to Mentor Collective is that it offers the whole package: recruiting, training, reporting, and assessment, said Lee F. Kahan, Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We liked the digital platform, but I think we were most impressed by how much personal support Mentor Collective offers to students in the program and the campus team. My experience is that Mentor Collective is always iterating, always looking to improve the mentors’ and mentees’ experience. It’s energizing to work with an organization so willing to experiment and evolve.
One mentee, Alena Brown, said that her mentor …helped me feel like I belong to IUSB.
Alena’s not alone. The program has had a high rate of engagement. Nearly 82 percent of participants have had at least one conversation with their mentor. More than 51 percent have had at least three, exceeding a benchmark of just over 32 percent. On top of that, more than 60 percent of participants have used the SMS feature.
Many attribute the mentorship program’s success to the number of students who were once new and overwhelmed and felt a desire to pay it forward as mentors after receiving a warm welcome and support from their professors and fellow students.
Also, amidst the uncertainty that COVID-19 may bring to the higher education landscape in 2020 and 2021, the Mentor Collective program will provide an outlet for students to voice feedback on how the school can provide ongoing support.
Having taught at IU South Bend for more than two decades, I’ve long known that our students are our most important asset, said Betsy Lucal, professor of sociology and director, First Year Experience Program. Their overwhelmingly positive response to the call for mentors, their eagerness to help new students find their home on our campus and learn the ropes to help them succeed in college, is a testament to that fact. Because they’ve been there and done that, these students know what it takes and I’m so proud of them for stepping forward to do their part to help their fellow Titans.