Program offers freshmen mentoring

A new program at USF provides first-year students with an easier way of acclimating to their new surroundings by mentoring with a staff member, said Mack Davis, director of Project Thrust.

Davis said the USF Mentoring program, which is an offshoot of the Project Thrust Mentoring Program, will provide a way to help students at USF.

Project Thrust is a support program established to provide personal and academic support to undergraduates at USF.

“We have a good understanding that students who are mentored enjoy their experiences at the university and that they are going to be retained at the university,” Davis said.

Davis added that students participating in the program are given the opportunity to have adviser at the university.

“These students enjoy the opportunity of talking with someone they can share their experiences and apprehensions with,” Davis said. “They have someone they can turn to to get information and be assured that they can succeed.”

Tracy Wicklund, a mentor in the program, said that advising isn’t restricted to academics.

“We set up weekly meetings where we talk about the first-year experience,” Wicklund said. “We talk about how classes are going, relationships with roommates and friends on campus; typical things during their first year.”

The requirements for enrollment in the program are simple, Davis said.

“The students have to be first-year students and express an interest in participating in the mentoring program,” Davis said.

The application for the project needs to be submitted by the faculty member and the student. After the application is received, it will be reviewed and the student will be matched with a faculty mentor based on interests.

Even though the application is a simple process, Davis said, students must be aware of the commitment involved with the program.

“Mentors and students should be ready to commit to one academic year,” Davis said. “We hope that even though the formal process ends after the first year, (the student) will stay in touch with the mentor.”

Davis said the project was founded in fall 2001 after receiving approval from Vice President of Student Affairs Harold Nixon.

“(Nixon) was a strong advocate of the program,” Davis said. “Nixon supported what we are doing and encouraged me to move forward with the program.”

Students, as well as faculty, are encouraged to get involved with the program, Davis said.

“I think it helps faculty grow in different capacities when they work as equals with students and not just as teachers,” Davis said.

Davis said the number of those enrolled has continued to grow since the past year.

“Last year we had 32 pairs of mentors and students,” Davis said. “This year we are hoping to expand to about 50 pairs.”

Davis explained what he hopes the program will achieve in the future.

“I would hope that every freshman student, someday, would have the opportunity of being matched with someone,” Davis said. “(The program) would aid in the transition from either a students’ home or former university.”