Upperclassmen impart wisdom in new Mentor A Peer program

Sept. 28, 2016, 12:22 a.m.

After discovering a need on campus for peer-to-peer mentoring, the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) is piloting a new program called Mentor A Peer (MAP). The program pairs juniors and seniors with freshmen and sophomores, giving upperclassmen the opportunity to share their Stanford experiences with underclassmen.

For this year’s pilot program, MAP coordinators are looking for 20 upperclassmen mentors and 20 sophomore mentees to jumpstart the mentorship community. The intention is to extend mentee applications to freshmen in future iterations of the program.

Despite the plethora of resources available to underclassmen, including Academic Advising Directors and Pre-Major Advisors, many students still find it difficult to navigate those resources or identify the resources suitable for their needs, according to MAP co-director Isabelle Foster ’18.

“The purpose of the mentor is what we envisioned as a central hub,” Foster said. “So upperclassmen will be able to refer underclassmen to different sources and know who the right person to go to is.”

Prospective mentors can apply at the start of fall quarter. After being selected, they will undergo a training program in which they will be introduced to all the resources on campus as well as the expectations for the mentoring relationship, according to MAP co-director Alberto Covarrubias ’18.

“We’re looking for mentors to be a mirror or someone who can help a mentee reflect on their experiences,” Covarrubias said. “We want [mentors and mentees] to think out loud together to figure out where [mentees] are at and how they’re navigating Stanford.”

According to Covarrubias, much of the mentor training will be about developing listening skills and being able to handle all of the situations that can arise in conversation. The goal is for mentors to become facilitators around conversations surrounding academic, social and career advice.

“[The mentor] isn’t meant to be one person who knows it all, but it’s meant to be someone who is familiar with a lot of resources and people with the expertise,” Covarrubias said.

There are several attractions for upperclassmen to become mentors. The main one includes the chance to “pay forward” all the help they had previously received when they were underclassmen, according to Foster.

“The mentor will have the opportunity to not only give back to the community by helping a mentee, [but] they will also be able to develop leadership skills, which would be helpful if they want to do a staff position in the future or become more involved on campus,” Foster said.

After training in the fall, mentors will be individually matched with their mentees in the beginning of winter quarter. VPUE will also provide a Coupa Cafe gift card for each mentor and mentee pair to encourage the development of a mentoring relationship while having coffee and snacks.

Foster, Covarrubias, along with recent graduates Marisa Messina ’16 and Joseph Troderman ’16 were members of last year’s VPUE Student Advisory Group which advises Vice Provost Harry Elam on student issues and interests. According to Covarrubias, “One of the issues that came up last year was the conversation about mentorship and how important it was for the undergraduate community.”

The group conducted several Qualtrics surveys and spoke with both underclassmen and upperclassmen in order to gauge the interest in the program.

“What we found was that a lot of students wanted peer advice and wanted to talk to students who had gone through the Stanford experience very recently and had taken the same classes and knew what it was like to live in the dorms,” Foster said.

In some ways, the idea of a peer mentor is modeled after having a resident assistant (RA) who is solely focused on one student.

“We found that a lot of students loved their RAs, trusted them and felt like they could connect with their RAs,” Foster said. “We’re interested in taking that concept of the RA and making it more personalized.”

The applications to become mentors will be released to upperclassmen in the following weeks. Sophomores can apply to become mentees in November.

Contact Ariel Liu at aliu15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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