Starting in fall 2012, students at UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Education at the Gevirtz Graduate School had a new way to get more support: the Graduate Students Association – Education (GSAE) began a mentor/mentee program. The idea of the mentor/mentee program was to make an easier transition for new students to the school by helping new students connect with another GGSE student to share stories, get/give advice, figure out how to navigate the milestone requirements, and support one another. A survey once the school year began discovered that the mentor/mentee program would be of great interest, so the GSAE made it a top priority. Currently there are 22 pairs of students in the program.
“I had originally suggested the program, so I took up the responsibilities of facilitating it,” Raquel Wigginton, GSAE VP of External Relations, explains. “Personally, I was really interested in starting the program because of the rough time I had my first year to really feel integrated and at home in the GGSE community. As a first-year graduate student in 2011-2012 I felt a little lost, a little lonely, and not knowing where to go for support, to ask questions, and to seek advice.” The leadership of the GASE that year helped Raquel, and she “eventually built a community of peers that were in my cohort as well as students who had been here for a while, but it was a long, and at times difficult process.”
The new mentor/mentee program makes the process faster and easier, and clearly seems to reward the mentor as much as the mentee. Ryan Dippre, a second-year Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning, currently mentors Erika I. Tremblay, a first year student also studying the practice and teaching of writing; both have Professor Charles Bazerman as their advisors. “I took part in this mentorship because I thought it would be important for first-year graduate students to have someone to talk to who had just been through what they are currently going through,” Ryan asserts. “I only had my own experiences to draw off of, but I thought that would be enough to help point out some pitfalls and perils to first-year students. I also like doing collaborative work, so I thought this program would be a great way to find people with similar interests to mine so that we could collaborate on stuff.”
Erika seems pleased with the relationship, saying, “Ryan has helped me pick courses and shared studying tips and academic and job related resources with me. It is nice to talk to him about on-going projects that I would be engaged in. He is also a good friend of mine, too.” Ryan confirms, saying, “Sometimes you just need nonchalantly kick around some of the ideas we talk about in our classes over a South Coast Deli sub, and we’ve done that on occasion. I’ve also pointed out the good places to eat both in IV and on campus, and that’s more important than it seems by about week five of the quarter. Working with Erika has been wonderful. She’s a great student and a great writer, so I’ve learned probably more than she has throughout our meetings.”
The GSAE considers this first year a pilot program and hopes to expand to more students in the Department of Education and see if the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology and Teacher Education Program might want to adapt something similar in 2013-14. “I would also like to add that I think [GSAE President] Torrey [Trust] and Raquel have done a great job with this program,” Ryan concludes. “It’s been very visible for the students in the GGSE, and I know that Erika and I have taken a lot away from it. Hats off to them for the job they’ve done.”