Reading Group Hosts Session on Mentoring

On October 11, 2012, the Inclusions and Exclusions Reading Group welcomed Susan Gershenfeld, Director of Illinois Promise, an I-Promise student, Bianca Flowers, and Clarence Shelley, an I-Promise donor, to talk with us about mentoring undergraduate students on the University of Illinois campus. “Illinois Promise began in Fall 2005 to ensure the affordability of higher education for students from the lowest income levels. Illinois Promise assures eligible recipients sufficient grant and scholarship funds in combination with a minimal employment expectation to cover their estimated cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and books and supplies.” Sharon Irish, CDI coordinator, is a mentor of a first-year I-Promise  student this year. There’s an introductory video about the program here.

Not all I-Promise students choose mentors, but these first-year students can choose a peer mentor or an adult mentor. The minimum expectation is that the mentor and mentee meet once a month. Susan Gershenfeld interviews all mentees and mentors to help make a good match between them. One of the issues on this large campus is that support services are dispersed; at the very least mentors can help identify places to seek tutoring, emergency financial aid, counseling, and medical care for students who are new to the community and already feel overwhelmed. Another aspect that mentors often help with is professional development and networking.

While the discussion focused on undergraduates, many of the same issues are relevant to graduate students who may be the first in their families to pursue a graduate degree. What conferences should I go to? Which journals are the best to read and submit to? What are good strategies for successful group projects? How do I create a good poster? What if I need help with my resume and cover letter? These are only a few of the issues that we need to address together to help GSLIS be a safe and welcoming place. The Center for Digital Inclusion will be working on compiling some mentoring guidelines as well as resources for students to consult. GSLIS Professor Emeritus Chip Bruce offers some advice here. The Graduate College has resources posted on their page.

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