First-year mentoring program proposed
The adjustment to college is often a big transition in one’s life. Wayne Kim ’14 has identified that, in spite of the COOT and Community Advisor programs that the College has implemented in order to alleviate some of the pressure, many first-years still struggle to find a sense of identity on the Hill. “The first few weeks are exceedingly important to defining your time here and, both in my experience and through the conversations I’ve had, many people have voiced a desire for a mentorship program,” Kim said.
“It’s not the first time something like this has come up,” Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Jed Wartman said. Wartman has been instrumental in helping Kim realize his vision. “Much of it is still in the brainstorm state, but what we’re really looking at is to create a type of network,” Wartman said.
According to Kim, the goal of the program would be to assign, through an extensive application process, underclassmen to junior and senior mentors who share similar interests. Ideally, this would help first-years make connections, see their own potential and see how to reach that potential as well. “Socially, we as students spend a lot of time in groups, and we really don’t have much one-on-one time with each other. In turn, that leads to a lot of small talk and conversation without much depth,” Kim said. “Our first introductions to Colby are Loudness and COOT….Loudness can be intimidating for some people and, being a COOT parent myself, I can admit that there’s kind of a ‘Colby is great,’ ‘happy camp’ mentality there.”
In fact, some of Kim’s motivation comes from his own first few months on campus. “I had a very difficult time coming from Southern California, and I was actually on the verge of transferring until I met two upperclassmen who took me under their wings, out of the monotonous style in which I was living my life, and put me on a path that allowed me to see the College through new eyes,” he said. Kim stressed, however, that he is in no way trying to bash or retaliate against either of the aforementioned programs. “Some people have wonderful COOT experiences, but for the ‘families’ that don’t remain close for the rest of the year, I want those students to know there’s always someone to talk to.”
Wartman agreed with this sentiment. “We’re not really addressing a problem. Nothing’s broken. What we’re doing is attempting to create more opportunities for students to connect and to grow. It’s part of our foundational philosophy, and that’s why we have COOT and why we have mixed housing. This would just be another, more personal option,” Wartman said.
Kim and Wartman also seek to have the program give back to the larger community by allowing mentor pairs to meet with each other, forming what Kim referred to as a fellowship. During the latter part of the year, this fellowship would work on a project intended to benefit the whole College. “You’ll do a lot here...but in the end, the things you leave with are your personal interactions, personal growth, or what I like to call ‘personal capital,’ and a legacy that records your individual effect on all those around you,” Kim said.
“We’re still trying to smooth out some of the rough points,” Kim admitted, referring to factors like junior mentors selecting to study abroad or first-years coming later in the year from abroad or as transfer students. “If everything gets passed, we want to keep it small for the first year or so. It’s not to exclude anyone; we just want to fine-tune aspects of the program in order to be as successful as possible,” Kim said.
“We will have been successful if a mentee walks away feeling like this program has enhanced their Colby experience. And what’s more, if they eventually become a mentor themselves,” Wartman said.