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The History of the First Year Mentor

The creation of the Marist Mentor came about in the late 70s when private higher education began to study attrition among college students. It was then that Marist College, as was the case on many other campuses, examined its holding power, its ability to retain students through four years. Where the college was not succeeding became the focus of internal planning.

The mentor was created as part of a plan which centered on identifiable points in the rites of passage for Marist undergraduates. The goal was to offer the undergraduate a variety of experiences and benchmarks in tracing his or her progress through college. Special attention was paid to those points where attrition was, according to our studies, likely to occur.

The mentor's position was incorporated in the plan to support the students new to the college setting throughout their first year. The mentor, seen as an educator, was to live and work with the new resident. The mentor would assist the traditional new student in making a successful transition from secondary schooling to the demands of college courses and the campus setting. The dramatic success of the pilot mentor program quickly led to securing a mentor to aid the commuter first-years. The role of the Mentor was extended to include students beyond their first year who had been placed on academic probation.

A first-year mentor in working with residents or commuters is concerned with the academic, social and personal adjustment of the individual student. The mentor, here, serves as a link between the new student and the rest of the campus, instructing students on how to contact faculty and a wide variety of support services. The mentor helps the new student think about his or her educational and career goals and to reflect on all that he or she is learning in and outside the classroom. The mentor encourages the student to articulate what he or she is experiencing and to test these conclusions with one's peers, faculty and support staff.

Mentors are assigned to live and work in each of the First-Year Residence Halls. This Resident mentor collaborates with the Resident Director and Resident Assistants in creating a learning environment within that facility. Mentor-student interactions take place in one-on-one and small group settings in skill building workshops, and in continuing orientation activities. Mid-term grades lead mentors to formulate with students learning contracts when grades are not acceptable. The Commuter Coordinator, working with a peer mentor and student council, seeks to achieve a wholesome and welcoming learning environment within the Commuter Lounge for our commuter population.