Mentoring program to be improved for fall


By Betsy Mathew

The Student-Faculty Links mentoring program will integrate Blackboard to broaden the communication between faculty mentors and students in the fall.

The Student-Faculty Links mentoring program is provided through First- and Second-Year Experience and serves as an opportunity for first-year students to seek guidance from their mentors to ease their transition to NIU. The program requires mentors and proteges to fill out a survey. They are then paired accordingly, often based on academic interests.

Students are invited to a “meet and greet” during the first week of classes where they connect with their mentor for the first time and establish how they will meet and communicate over the fall semester.

Denise Rode, director of First-and Second-Year Experience, sees this program as a way for students to a have a sense of belonging and feel like a part of the NIU community from the start of their college experience.

“We want them to do well academically, find their niche here and take advantage of all the many resources NIU offers to make the most of their college experience,” Rode said.

Mentors, in the past, have usually met with their proteges on a monthly basis, often over lunch and coffee. The program will add an online component and integrate Blackboard to create online communities as an avenue for students to interact with their mentors as well as other students.

Kevin Bak, member of the student success team at First-and Second-Year Experience, said adding Blackboard will be helpful for students if they are having trouble meeting with their mentors. Instead of using email and social media, Blackboard will provide a more structured format that will allow students to communicate with their mentors more effectively and help get more students to join.

“We have a lot more faculty participating in it this year than ever before, so we’re hoping for a greater amount of students so we can pair a lot more of them up,” Bak said.

Jency Thomas, student staff member at First- and Second-Year Experience, said the Blackboard element will allow easier communication between mentors and proteges and will benefit students.

“The communities allow mentees to network and meet other students and will allow students to set up discussions, chat via webcam and collaborate …,” Thomas said.

Rode said providing first-year students with support to be successful students and alumni is her goal.

“When I entered NIU as a first-generation freshman in our largest-ever first-year class of about 4,000 students, there were no programs like this in place,” Rode said. “It took me an entire year to find my niche here and decide that I’d come back as a sophomore … my transition would’ve been so much quicker and easier if there had been someone waiting when I arrived.”