Proposal for a Mentoring Partnership Program
for Transfer Students at the Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College
Joetta R. Bradica
The Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College came into existence in 1997 as a result of the restructuring of the Penn State University system. Penn State University encouraged its satellite campuses to develop four-year programs to stem the tide of students transferring to the main campus to complete their degrees. Eighty-five percent of students attending the satellite campuses would spend the first two years of their degree requirements at a satellite campus and then transfer to the main campus to complete their degree. With the ever increasing enrollment numbers at the satellite campuses, the facilities at the main campus would soon become inadequate to handle the increase in transfer students. The development of four-year degree programs at satellite campuses was designed to alleviate this overcrowding possibility.
The former Penn State Berks Campus and the Lehigh Valley Campus merged to become the Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College July 1, 1997. At its inception, the college offered three four-year degree programs. The development of degree programs had to consider the programs already being offered by colleges in the surrounding community. The degree offerings were expanded over the last four years and currently the college offers eight distinct four-year programs. The offering of distinct programs allays the fears of its neighbor colleges as well as contributing to the retaining of students who may have begun their education with the goal of attending the main campus. Because of the market research done prior to establishing the four-year degree programs at the Penn State Berks Lehigh Valley College, the degrees being offered mesh well with the potential opportunities in the job market of the area. Thus, students who are location bound or desire to locate in the Reading area are transferring to the college.
Need for a Mentoring Program for Transfer Students
Penn State is a large and complex system. The impact of such complexity has been recognized and the confusion caused for first-year students is addressed by scheduling a day of FTCAP (First-year student testing, counseling and advising program) before they actually enter the university. FTCAP introduces the first-year student to the Penn State way of doing things and explains such necessary procedures as advising, computer access, billing procedures, parking procedures and bookstore and library information. It explains the use of terminology such as "elion" that is peculiar to the Penn State system. Another example is the use of the terms "scheduled" and "registered". At other institutions of higher education 46register" is a common term that means choosing classes. At Penn State classes are "scheduled" at the time they are chosen and the student becomes "registered" for such classes when arrangements are made to meet the financial obligation incurred.
A student who transfers into the college does not participate in FTCAP. Even though there is a multi-day orientation prior to classes starting in the fall that transfer students may attend if they choose, the emphasis of this orientation program is to acclimate the first-year student to the collegiate experience. It does not focus on Penn State procedures. Students who enter the college in January for the spring semester are scheduled to attend a two hour orientation session. This introduction to college and Penn State in particular, pales when compared to the FTCAP and multi-day fall orientation experience. A number of transfer students enter the college in the middle of the academic year. They are many times confused and overwhelmed by the Penn State system. It takes them at least one semester to become accustomed to the uniqueness of Penn State procedures and terminology.
Justification for Mentoring
Transfer students enter the Penn State Berks Lehigh-Valley College with prior collegiate experiences. They must learn new policies, procedures and terminology. A mentor providing assistance with this transition can help to minimize confusion and frustration with the complex Penn State system.
Marie Wunsch (1994) sees mentoring as a close, personal relationship between two individuals, which includes the aspects of caring, teaching and guiding. A mentoring relationship helps to develop a positive and secure self-image for the individual. It seeks to integrate career and family responsibilities. This mentoring relationship is a useful tool used to transform loneliness and isolation into a sense of obligation, loyalty and fulfillment. Cohen (1995) views mentors as a source of emotional support, practical information and inspiration. He indicates that mentoring forms a supportive infrastructure within an organization. Laurent Daloz (1990) gives a description of the duties of a mentor as modeling expected behavior, speaking the language, interpreting the environment, confirming, providing support and a vision.
The concepts of mentoring established by these Joetta R. Bradicas' supports the necessity of mentors for transfer students. They can help the transfer student overcome feelings of isolation, lack of pertinent information and can model expected academic behavior. Thus, mentors would assist transfer students in acclimating to their new surroundings with less frustration and in a more efficient time frame.
Feinberg and Soltis (1992) indicate that rules and vocabulary cannot exist in an abstract or impersonal realm. The participants must understand the rules and vocabulary peculiar to any activity. Mentors would be instrumental in providing assistance to transfer students, as they become accustomed to the rules and vocabulary peculiar to the Penn State system.
Mentoring Partnership Program
The proposed program would require a core of students who either began their college experience at the Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College or who transferred into the program in their sophomore or junior year. These students would be asked to participate as mentors to help make the transition to the college easier for incoming transfer students. The mentors would be required to attend a two-hour training session that would be held over lunch and the activity period in the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. The program would provide lunch. Their training would consist of a summary of the essentials to a good mentoring relationship and the requirements of the program. Some type of weekly contact by the mentor for the first month of the mentoring relationship, i.e. by phone, actual meeting or email would be a requirement. A checklist of items to be covered in the initial meeting with the mentee would be provided. These items would include how to explain the advising process, class scheduling process, computer access process, how to navigate elion, the billing process and safety and security items. The mentor will provide the mentee with a list of people to contact for pertinent questions such as financial aid, career services and the leaming center. A list of Penn State terminology would also be provided to the mentee to be used for ftiture reference.
After the first month, the mentor and mentee would establish their own method and frequency of contact. The program would hold a group meeting for all mentors and mentees in the middle of the semester and at the end of the semester. The mid-semester meeting would be a time of sharing information to make sure that all mentees are receiving the necessary information. The end of the semester meeting would include time for an evaluation of the program. This would include a time for the entire group to share their ideas for improving the program and also time for individual written evaluations. These group meetings would occur over the lunch hour, with lunch provided by the program, and may last into the activity period time frame.
Mentors and mentees would be matched by considering program of study and age. If not enough current students volunteered it is possible that one mentor could have two or more mentees.
Mentors would gain the intrinsic satisfaction of helping others. There would also be recognition for the mentors at the college's annual awards ceremony.
The initial cost for the program would be very reasonable at $1500 per semester.
Monies would be needed for the lunch meetings at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester. A pizza party social or similar event that would bring all of the mentors and mentees together for a time of social interaction could also be held using these funds.
This program would have immediate and long-term benefits. The incoming students would realize the immediate benefits. These students would be less frustrated with the Penn State system and would have a more positive attitude about their Penn State experience. The program would foster a feeling of inclusion for students who may have come from other institutions and be accustomed to the culture of their previous institution. Because it encourages a positive experience and fosters a feeling of inclusion, the program could lead to a higher level of persistence among transfer students at the college. The long-term benefit would be a happy alumnus. Happy alumni are more disposed to make contributions to the annual fund and capital campaigns.
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Daloz, L.A. (1990) Mentorship. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.),
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Feinberg, W. & Soltis, J.F. (1992).
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Wunsch, M.A. (1994).
Mentoring revisited: Making an impact on individuals and institutions.
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