UFV started a new leadership initiative this fall called Lead, which looks to pair first-year students with an upper-level student mentor. The goal of the program is to help ease new students’ transition into university life. Mentors send out a weekly newsletter to connect with their students, and make themselves available to answer questions or meet up to give their student mentees advice.
“If you’re starting at a university for the first time, some people take the transition very easily. For other people, it’s very intimidating. They might be living on their own for the first time away from all of their friends and family, their support network. It’s valuable for them to know they have a single person who’s checking in on them and making sure they’re okay,” said Belinda Karsen, UFV student transitions coordinator.
The program is modeled after the current mentorship program at University of B.C., Okanagan. Students start off as mentees, then have the option to move on as mentors after their first year. After the first year as a mentor, those students in turn have the opportunity to move on to be mentored themselves, by either alumni or university staff, depending on their future career goals.
Though alumni mentorship has not yet been set up, Karsen said that members of the Alumni Association have expressed interest in the program.
“They think it’s a great program, and they think alumni will be receptive to it,” said Karsen. “Now it’s a matter of getting specific individuals to commit, and matching those alumni with their potential mentees.”
A UBCO student who was actively involved in their mentorship program was hired by UFV as a summer intern to assist in the setup of the Lead initiative.
Greg Mathers, manager of student wellness and development at UFV, also spent time on the UBCO campus as a commuter student coordinator.
“[Greg] saw what this program can be. They are several years into the program, and theirs matches every single new student to a mentor,” said Karsen.
Cambree Lovesy, one of around 50 mentees in UFV’s pilot Lead program, said that the program has been very beneficial to her in helping her transition into university life.
“I decided to become a part of Lead because I was looking for a way to become involved on campus, as I was a first-semester student at UFV. I have benefited from all the friendships I have made, as well as from the mentors who have helped to make the transition from high school to university seamless,” said Lovesy.
Karsen said the big picture goal of the Lead program would be to match every student coming into UFV with a mentor.
“Even if the student just needs a mentor for the first week or two of classes, to have a big enough team of mentors who are fully trained and committed that we can do this on an ongoing basis would be the level that we’d like to get to,” said Karsen.