Peer to Peer Support Program Sees Dramatic Growth
(Ashland, Ore.) – Southern Oregon University hopes to increase its first to second year retention rate by assigning academically successful mentors to help first year students succeed. First year retention at SOU is just short of 70 percent. The university’s goal is to achieve a rate in the mid-70s over the next few years.
Begun as a pilot project in the 2009-10 academic year, the mentorship program has seen strong growth. “Last year there were 35 students involved,” says program coordinator Jessica Rapport. “So far this year we have 121 participating.”
A new initiative driving growth this year is outreach to veterans, pairing up soldiers who are new to campus with fellow veterans who have more college experience and are academically successful. Research shows if students feel supported, connected and engaged on campus, they will perform better academically.
“Being a part of the first year mentor program is like having another family,” says mentee Robyn Eckert. “My mentor was more than a friend; She was the big sister I needed in college.”
Rapport says mentors are asked to meet with their mentee at least one hour a week, but are encouraged to do more. “We hope this relationship will help build campus community and strengthen student engagement.”
“For me, it was a chance to take a break from class and spend regular time with a first year student,” says mentor Reena Cramer. “It was amazing to see my mentee at the same time every week, and to hear what her week was like. Sometimes it was bad, and we would talk about it and discuss solutions. Sometimes it was good, and we would have some food and hang out. It was a rewarding experience because she told me I made a difference in her time at SOU for the better.”
The first year mentor program also hosts group activities such as rafting trips, visits to Science Works, and group study sessions. It also provides opportunities for first year students to work with community organizations.
Student fees and a partnership with AmeriCorps through Oregon Campus Compact provide the funding for SOU’s first year mentor program.
For further information contact: