A helping hand

Created on: May 11, 2012

The circle of every technology student’s life could soon start and end as part of a mentoring experience.  Mentoring programs for organizations and departments within the college are helping first-year students with successful transitions to the rigors of college classes. And upperclassmen are benefitting from the experience along the way.

WITty Sisters

The Women in Technology (WIT) organization started its WITty Sisters mentoring program in 2010. It pairs returning students with first-year students based on their academic and extracurricular interests. Each mentor/mentee pair is encouraged to meet on a regular basis. Meetings can be for academic help or socializing, as long as they maintain a connection.

“Our main goal is to encourage our women to stay in the College of Technology,” said Erika Healy, mentorship chair for WIT. “Too often they get discouraged and leave. The upperclassmen know the challenges, and they help their mentees feel more comfortable and that they aren’t alone.”

Junior Dekiyra Love, a professional flight major from Kansas City, Mo., is mentor to three first-year flight students.

“When I was a freshman, I had a friend whose boyfriend was a senior. He helped us out because we were friends with her,” Love said. “The only way I got through my first year was from that help. Not everybody has that. When I was asked to help mentor, I thought, ‘I should do for other people what I got from him’.”

Love’s mentees have benefitted from her prior academic and student life experiences. Each one has different needs in the mentoring relationship, from academic help to advice about Purdue resources or life.

“When I first came to Purdue, she was definitely a friend to me, which is something I needed,” said Alisha Garcia, a professional flight major from Indianapolis who is the first person in her family to go to college. “I didn’t have anybody to help me through the whole welcome thing. She introduced me to Purdue; she cracked the shell open for me.”

BCMentors

Branden Burke serves as coordinator of BCMentors, which started in 2008 to help attract and retain underrepresented students to the Department of Building Construction Management (BCM). Organizers soon realized that their services would be beneficial to the entire BCM student body. Burke worked with classmate Jonathan Dawkins, one of three co-founders, to build up and expand the program.

The core of BCMentors is the weekly study table Wednesday nights on the fourth floor of Knoy Hall, headquarters to the department.

“This is the first chance many of our underclassmen have to be on the fourth floor,” Burke said. “We introduce them to the floor early so they can start to see where the professors and advisors are. We’re providing a less formal atmosphere.”

The study tables do not usually focus on a specific class, but Burke said BCM 17500 (Construction Materials and Methods) is one they tend to help students with most.

“That’s the foundation for our entire curriculum,” he said. “If they can’t grasp it, they’ll have trouble with the rest of the program.”

In the last two years, BCMentors has grown to include service projects in the community, recruiting efforts for new students and social events for BCM majors. Through it all, Burke said the connections he has made with other majors has been the best part.

“I’m a strong believer in networks. BCMentors has really helped me build my professional network, which used to be my student network,” he said. “It’s really unique to be able to have people as industry contacts who were mentors in the past. Now I have younger students looking up to me, and I’m going to be that for them.”

Burke said the success of BCMentors relies on the determination of the program’s leaders and the students who use the services. More than 250 students have taken advantage of the study tables since the program began.

Completing the circle

In fact, the success of both programs could be determined by the number of mentees turned mentors in the coming semesters. Organizers believe they have created something special for the students they serve. And if Alisha Garcia’s experience is any indication, the offerings will continue for years to come.

“Yes, I’ll definitely be a mentor,” she said. “I like everything that Dekiyra’s done. Since she was able to help me experience Purdue, I feel like I could help someone else in the same way.”