By: Joshlyn Thomas, HRSM Communications
Imagine a program that would assist first-year students in the transition of their college work and the acclimation of the university that was led by their peers. That's exactly the idea Dr. Reenea Harrison had with the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) Peer Mentoring Connection. This new initiative encourages student retention and graduation rates and pairs first-year students with successful upperclassmen in hopes of creating successful academic paths and the introduction of lifelong friendships.
Mentors are composed of sophomores, juniors and seniors while buddies are freshman students. The program, which kicked off last spring, has nine mentors and hopes to grow in numbers to recruit even more highly driven peer mentors and first year-buddies that recognize the benefits of having a personal motivator and supporter. The HRSM Peer Mentoring Connection is a voluntary program and reaches out to students of all backgrounds to share experience and offer guidance to those who would like the help.
One successful pairing of mentor and buddy is junior Dana Johnson and freshman Novia Greene, both retail and fashion merchandising majors and both transfer students.
"When I transferred here from a tech school, it was really big and I didn't know how to make connections,” said Johnson. "I figured I could help somebody else in whatever way I could.”
Johnson has assisted Greene in becoming acclimated to the university and showing her
how to succeed in their major. Along with bonding on an academic level, both Johnson
and Greene have created a friendship outside of the classroom.
"It is the hope of our program to help the climate here to be more warm and inviting for all of our students. The largest attrition rate happens before the sophomore year because a lot of times students never felt connected to the campus,” Dr. Harrison stated.
From a buddy perspective, first-year students are given the opportunity to learn the ropes and create networking opportunities with their peer mentors who have journeyed the same paths. Senior hotel, restaurant and tourism management student Lenny Swinton and freshman sport and entertainment management student Elan Stern credit the program for jump-starting their friendship.
"The program led me in the direction of Lenny,” Stern stated. "He immediately introduced me to peer mentoring. I'd never even thought of it before. If you believe in fate, I guess that's what it was.”
What was envisioned as the goal for the HRSM Peer Mentoring Program is becoming a reality for most of the pairs. Mentors and buddies enjoy the best of both worlds by attending career fairs together, catching up at Moe's Southwest Grill, enjoying Chicken Finger Wednesday and studying for midterms in Thomas Cooper Library.