Faculty-student mentorship program formalizes connections

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Esther Pais, coordinator of the faculty student mentor program and speech instructor, leads a discussion on mentors Jan. 10 in visual arts. Faculty were given tips on time management, including using office hours as a way to be available for mentoring. V. Finster

Each Alamo College is tasked with implementing program by fall.

Alison Graef


At a board meeting Jan. 23, Jo-Carol Fabianke, former vice chancellor of academic success, spoke about the formalization and implementation of a faculty-student mentorship program that will begin at all Alamo Colleges fall 2018.

Fabianke said the mentorship program is intended to connect students to a faculty member in addition to an assigned adviser. She said faculty mentors help students with questions such as what it’s “going to take” to major in a particular degree at a four-year institution.

In an interview, speech Instructor Esther Pais, who has helped pilot mentoring at this college, said the primary purpose of mentoring is to retain students and help them complete educational goals, whether completing a degree, transferring or attaining a job.

Fabianke said many faculty are already connecting with and informally mentoring students, so the program would be formalizing and expanding a process that already exists.

“Many faculty do that anyway,” Fabianke said. “But we want to make sure every student has this mentorship.”

Fabianke said now that the program has been developed and piloted by faculty members, each  college is tasked this spring with deciding how they will adapt and implement it.

She said colleges must decide which faculty members are going to be involved in the first phase, what mentoring will entail and how mentoring interactions will be documented.

In the pilot program at this college, which began in fall 2016, faculty mentors took responsibility for 15 student mentees. Pais said the students can be assigned based on their majors, or faculty can request students with whom they are already connected.

The pilot has grown from just 33 mentors to about 113.

At this college, faculty members who are assigned mentees receive students’ names, Banner IDs and contact information, and should send a “short and sweet” email to introduce themselves and initiate first contact.

Faculty members who already have mentees should email Pais their names and Banner IDs so she will know not to assign them to another mentor. Pais said faculty should not be overwhelmed by the idea of mentoring 15 students because mentoring is not as intensive and time-consuming as it

“I want to show, hopefully everyone, how non-intimidating it really is,” Pais said. “I’m really trying to get people to understand what it is and what it is not because there is a lot of misunderstanding of what the expectations are.”

She said while mentoring is not required, some departments are encouraging faculty to become faculty-student mentors.

Pais said departments will eventually come up with their own agreement plans to personalize the goals and responsibilities of the faculty-student mentors.

Mentors at this college are provided a brief questionnaire to help them get to know mentees’ needs upon first meeting with them. The questionnaire lists a things a mentor can help with and helps students understand what a faculty mentor can do for them.

Pais said mentors are not meant to replace academic advisers. While advisers help students with the “nitty-gritty,” Pais said mentors can help students with questions about what classes to take simultaneously without being overloaded, what jobs a chosen degree will be useful for or if a chosen degree is the
right one for them. She said mentors also serve as encouraging figures in students’ academic lives.

“I had faculty who I could depend on,” Pais said of her own educational experience. “Whether it was a question about ‘where can I go to for X?’ or their opinion on ‘this career choice for this degree,’ there was someone I could go to that I trusted, who I felt had my best interest in mind, and they helped me.”

Pais has been mentoring since last spring and took over leading the program from then-foreign languages Professor Tammy Perez, who helped begin the program in fall 2016. Pais mentors 25 students.

Pais knows firsthand how faculty mentors, or lack thereof, can influence a student’s college experience. When she first attended college, a professor whom she respected brushed her off when she confided about hardships in her personal life that were taking a heavy toll on her academics.

“She didn’t make me quit school, but it was just the last straw,” Pais said.

When Pais returned to college years later, it was a faculty mentor who helped cheer her on and guide her through university as a non-traditional student, and ultimately encouraged her to attend graduate school.

“Obviously, when it came to mentoring, I was in because I know what a faculty member can do or not do for a student,” she said.

Students who want a mentor or faculty members who want mentees can email Pais at epais@alamo.edu.


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