LEADERSHIP & GUIDANCE: THE SOPHOMORE ACADEMIC MENTORING PROGRAM
By Myrna G. Perez
For many students in colleges across the United States, the second year of college can be a very trying and stressful period. It is a time when sophomores are no longer the new kids on campus, but have yet to gain enough experience and knowledge in college like junior and senior students. Pressures such as declaring a major or preparing for entrance into a specific program of study only add more stress to students. With this in mind, The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) has initiated Sophomore Academic Mentoring (SAM). It is one of a handful of peer mentoring programs in the United States targeting college sophomore students.
The mission of Sophomore Academic Mentoring (SAM) is to assist UTPA second year students to reach their individual academic goals by being mentored by junior and senior students. In a welcome video targeting UTPA sophomore students, Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Academic Assessment, and Retention states, “Being a sophomore means that you successfully navigated your freshman year at the University. We are now very interested in helping you move on to the junior and senior level so that you can achieve your dreams and graduate from the University. In order to help you do that we have initiated the SAM program. We are inviting you to participate with us, to join us in helping you to make sure that you move on to your junior year and successfully graduate from the University.”
According to Marta Lopez, University Retention Advisement Program (URAP) director, “The SAM Program has been uniquely designed with second year students in mind. We know that the sophomore year can be challenging. It is a time for reflection, consolidation, and decision-making.” Mrs. Lopez further explains that sophomore students can improve their experience at UTPA by being in a mentoring environment. “Sophomore students are connected with junior and senior students who serve as mentors and voices of experience.”
Mentors will be grouped with sophomore students, or protégés, within the same college to create unique teaching teams that provide academic, social, and personal support. Mentors will help answer questions or lay to rest fears that their protégés may have about their major or other concerns. The mentors will serve as role models in the areas of academic and co-curricular involvement in order to support sophomore students to successfully complete their second year. Furthermore, protégés participating in SAM for a full year will be given the opportunity to become SAM mentors during their junior and senior year. This will allow them to share their own experiences and knowledge gained during their participation in SAM with future sophomore students.
Recently, the first ever SAM Mentor Orientation took place. When asked why they wanted to be a mentor, some of the students said, “I’d like to help other students.” “My older brother guided me during college…and I’d like to do the same for someone else.” “The sophomore year was very hard for me…I wish I would have had someone to give me advice and help me. It would have made my sophomore year easier.” Already members of the first cohort of SAM mentors realize the importance and value of a mentor from personal experience. Even though the mentor’s primary goal will be to share his/her knowledge and experiences with the protégé, the mentor will also benefit from SAM. Mentors will become better leaders, better listeners and informal advisors, as well as role models. Their self-confidence and self-satisfaction will increase in knowing that they are helping somebody else. They will get to meet other students and professionals through professional, educational, and social events. In the process they will prove that they are responsible, committed, and caring individuals. All of these skills will be valuable in the mentor’s personal and professional future. SAM mentors will also receive financial compensation as a direct-wage employee of UTPA.
It is the University’s goal to eventually pair up every single sophomore student at UTPA with a mentor.
* For more information on SAM, please call (956) 665-7120.