Mentor project created

By Julie Zvitkovits

A mentoring program has been created to increase the current NIU graduation rate of 49 percent.

Although NIU’s graduation rate is considered typical of a school with a 25,000-plus enrollment, project co-chairperson Deb Cassidy, faculty member in the human and family resources department, said there are ways to increase the graduation rate.

Students who are involved are more likely to complete college, Cassidy said. For example, she noted a 62.5 percent graduation rate for students who have completed HFR’s elective orientation course. The orientation class is a one-credit-hour course which introduces students to campus life.

During the summer and fall 1988 semesters and the 1989 spring semester, 3,823 students earned undergraduate degrees from NIU.

Linda Tillis, assistant director of Student Housing Services, said, “The mentoring program might help retain some kids.”

Only new and transfer students were invited to participate in the mentor program for the spring semester, but student participation is expected to increase eventually, said Orville Kersten, physical education assistant professor. Forty incoming students are scheduled to participate in the program.

The mentoring project should improve the academic environment with its informal relations between faculty and students, Kersten said.

“Mentors will stress liberal arts events, but also activities which may interest the student,” Kersten said.

All NIU faculty have been asked to participate in the program. Fifty faculty members and 20 supportive staff members have volunteered, Cassidy said. Faculty indicated the amount of students they preferred to assist through the program.

The amount of interaction with a student is determined by each mentor, but mentors are not to replace academic advisers, Cassidy said.

A student mentoring meeting will be held Thursday and a meeting of both groups will be February 1, Tillis said.

The program will have “a cultural element to it,” Mary Cozad, program co-chairwoman, said. Each participating student will have a faculty member “to come and talk to about NIU.”