Pilot program begins in 1990

By Nissin Behar

An NIU voluntary faculty-mentoring-student program might increase NIU’s 49 percent graduation rate, but its success depends on how it is implemented.

The pilot program will begin in spring 1990 semester for all new and transfer students entering NIU.

Deborah Cassidy, NIU Human and Family Resources professor, said the Committee on the Undergraduate Academic Environment first discussed the mentoring program in September.

The program should help students become familiar and comfortable with university life, Cassidy said. The program will foster relationships between faculty and staff, she said.

NIU Spanish Professor Mary Cozad said the mentoring program will be non-academic, have no curriculum advising and no tutoring.

Faculty can choose to work with one or two students, she said. “It’s a social-cultural activity to ease the maze through the university,” Cozad said. “It is orientation geared.”

“A lot of the faculty support it,” Cassidy said. The program is flexible because some faculty only have a few hours a month to devote to the program, she said.

During the faculty-student sessions, students can talk about career aspirations and share hobbies with the faculty member, said Linda Tillis, assistant director of NIU Housing Services. “Students connect with a full-time professional and get through the red tape,” she said.

Faculty and students can attend university events, such as plays or political forums, share that experience and discuss it, Tillis said.

Studies show students who feel a part of the university, such as joining a club, are likely to complete college, she said.

A student could go to the mentor for an administrative type of problem, Cozad said. A personal problem might be solved by suggesting the student go to Counseling and Student Development, she said.

Cozad was involved with a similar program at the University of Virginia a few years ago. At the U of V, a mentoring program was mandatory on the part of the professor and student, she said.

Northern Today, an NIU faculty and staff newsletter, reports all faculty will receive letters inviting them to participate in the program. Letters are also being sent to all new and transfer students enrolling at NIU next semester.

Cassidy will handle faculty responses. Tillis will handle student responses. The students’ questionnaire asks about a student’s year in school, intended major, hobbies and schools attended before NIU.