Looking to build tomorrow’s leaders on campus, the Emerging Leaders Program at the University of Calgary has more mentors and more first-year applicants than ever before. Mentors help first-year students get the most out of their university experience.
This year, over 330 first-year students applied for the program, and about 183 people are currently working as mentors or are training to become a mentor.
The ELP helps first-year students transition from high school to university through mentoring. Both faculty and fellow students can be mentors. Through the ELP, new students are introduced to different resources available on campus and are given advice on how to best reach their academic and personal goals during their university career.
Manager of leadership, training and development at the Leadership and Student Engagement office Gareth McVicar said the program is beneficial and effective, both for mentors and students.
“The program aims to expose students to a lot of breadth,” said McVicar. “By the time they finish the program in their first-year, they really know the resources, locations and people they can go to to really help them be successful for the duration of their university career.”
The ELP began in November 2009. Since then, the program has paired first-year students with mentors and has grown considerably.
To keep up with the record number of first-year applicants this year, the program needed more mentors.
“We have more mentors then we’ve had before,” said McVicar. “That includes [university president] Elizabeth Cannon and a number of professors from arts and sciences. It’s been really across the board.”
Although university faculty members are a majority of the mentors in the program, the ELP put out its search for senior level students to join as mentors for new students.
“When looking at potential student mentors, we look at things like involvement on campus, what ambassador roles they’ve served in and, in general, how they’re involved off campus,” said McVicar. “We also want to make sure that they have the time to commit the two hours a semester required, even though that’s quite minimal.”
Participating students and mentors are matched according to common faculty or shared interests. After being paired, the two meet once a semester, outlining their goals and how to best achieve them.
McVicar, who is a mentor himself, said working as a mentor can be rewarding.
“Personally, I really like one-on-one work with students. You get to find out what makes them tick and what their interests are. Once you do this, you can find something that works for them, then match them up with that,” said McVicar.
Third-year kinesiology student and mentor Aiya Amery said the mentor program opens connections and makes it easier for new students.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity. I didn’t have it in my first year, and it’s really helpful for new students and a way to connect and get involved with university, which can be hard at first,” said Amery. “Mentoring can keep students engaged and help them succeed in school, but it also reminds them that there is life outside the classroom.”
The deadline to apply to be a mentor has passed, but if first-year students need help, they are still encouraged to apply.