“Our goal is for as few people as possible to drop out. Therefore, we must make sure they thrive and succeed academically”, says mentor Julie Gjerdsjø Eriksen (21).
She is a student mentor along with Nazir El-Halabi (23) and Jonas Hvaal Christensen (27) among others. This is an initiative where experienced students guide new students to make the transition from upper secondary school easier.
It is all under the auspices of the mentor schemes ‘God start’ (the Faculty of Humanities and Education), ‘FYSE’ (the Faculty of Engineering and Science) and ‘PEER’ (the Faculty of Social Sciences).
Here, student mentors receive training in leadership, communication and listening skills, study techniques and academic development.
They get five credits as a reward for their efforts. Credits for the training were introduced at UiA this year.
“For me this is management training. You get to lead a group of students, plan sessions, work creatively and meet new people. This is good experience to have, especially for me who plan to become a teacher”, says Jonas Hvaal Christensen.
The scheme will help to counter student loneliness and reduce the percentage of failing grades in certain subjects.
Both Julie Gjerdsjø Eriksen and Jonas Hvaal Christensen have previous experience as mentors. They have both seen the number of failing grades decrease since the mentor groups were formed.
“University exams are very different from secondary school exams. In some subjects we’ve seen a large reduction in failure rates. This shows that the mentoring scheme works well”, says Hvaal Christensen.
Gjerdsjø Eriksen refers to another example to illustrate the success of the scheme:
“A few years ago, the failure rate in an engineering mathematics module was terrible. That is why we introduced the mentoring scheme, ‘FYSE’. When we worked closely together and organised many social events, the failure rate went down”, she says.
Those involved in the mentoring scheme see that the pandemic has created a greater demand for such a measure for students.
“Those who come straight from secondary school missed out on exams and months of direct schooling due to the coronavirus crisis. That might make the transition scarier for them. That is why the mentoring scheme is a key focus area this year, and we see that it works. We have given the mentors thorough training to equip them for the task, close to 130 hours which is equivalent to five credits.”
That is what Sara Sørstrand says. She is project manager for ‘God start’ and practice placement adviser at UiA.
Sørstrand refers to the students’ health and well-being survey (SHoT) which shows worrying trends related to students’ mental health and quality of life as a result of the pandemic.
This is the reason why Nazir El-Halabi wanted to become a mentor this year. Each mentor is assigned a group of 10-15 students to assist and support throughout the semester.
El-Halabi’s goal is that no one in his group should feel the loneliness he felt when he was a new student.
“My first year of university was lonely. It was difficult to connect with teachers and I had no friends. And I chose to drop out. Now I want to be someone who inspires students to carry on, even though the transition from secondary school or other programmes can be hard”, he says.
Interested in becoming a mentor or joining a mentor group? Then you should read this:
HOW THE MENTORING SCHEME WORKS:
The student mentors must go through the following joint training:
Source: Sara Sørstrand / Good start