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Wednesday, June 18 • 1:30pm - 2:20pm
CON1.02 – Transforming the First Year Experience in the Faculty of Science Using a Student Peer-Mentoring Group (Room A334)

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As academic pressures rise and resources become more limited, many of us are concerned about how we can improve student retention rates and student success. Mentoring programs are one possible avenue for enhancing both retention and success, as they have been shown to facilitate a successful social and academic transition to university (Heirdsfield et al. 2007) and reduce stress amongst students (Mekdessi et al., 2013). While there are many models for mentoring programs, we wanted to try to transform the learning experience by fostering a positive collaborative environment based on student peer mentoring in the Faculty of Science. Science programs often involve large first-year classes with little sense of community. Furthermore, as a large number of science students vie for a limited number of spots in professional schools, there can be a heavy focus on competition. Science students were interviewed about the pressures that they faced in their transitional first year at the University of Windsor as part of a separate study; during these interviews, many upper-year students commented on how they wish they had a peer mentor to help guide them through their early years. These students were the major impetus for starting the MySci Advisors Program in the Faculty of Science, as they expressed a strong desire to provide that service for new students. The MySci Advisors Program is only in its second year so quantitative data are not abundant but some preliminary data show positive responses from mentored students and also suggest that there has been a reduction in failure and withdrawal rates in first year classes.  In addition, many of the student volunteers who became mentors have also commented that they now see themselves more as an integral part of a community due to the fact that they were helping others and making a connection with new students.

One of the primary goals of our session is to allow others to envision how they may be able to start a similar peer mentoring program in their own departments, with few resources other than motivation and time. A short presentation will detail how the MySci Advisors Program was started and will present both pitfalls and successes of this type of program to aid those interested in similar initiatives. Participants will be asked to share their goals for peer-mentoring groups at their institutions. Following a discussion of these goals as a group, participants will be asked to share ideas about the resources needed to administer a peer-mentoring group. Finally, participants will be asked to consider how they might quantify the success of peer-mentoring groups. Through these interactions, the presenter will facilitate a free exchange of information between participants who are already involved in peer mentoring programs and those who are just contemplating the establishment of a program, so that together we can work to elucidate common practices for peer-mentoring success.

Wednesday June 18, 2014 1:30pm - 2:20pm EDT
A334 McArthur Hall

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