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Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Mentoring Partnership Supports First-Year Students

April 26th, 2012

As the final exam crunch-time hits, some first-year students are breathing easier thanks to a new collaboration between CAS and the Educational Resource Center (ERC). The Academic Mentoring Partnership (AMP) is a program designed as a resource for second-semester first-year students who would like additional support in reaching their academic goals. The program began in January, and is a part of the CAS First-Year Experience program and a precursor to the ERC’s Sophomore Strategies initiative.

The partnership connects second-semester first-year students with upperclassmen peer mentors. The mentors and mentees meet frequently (once every week or two) to discuss a wide variety of academic issues—study habits, time management habits, as well as any student life-related issue that might arise. The purpose of the partnership is to engage freshmen in a candid, one-on-one conversation about their academic and personal goals. “Anytime students get together to discuss their interests, goals, or concerns is a good thing,” explains Glenn Wrigley, director of the ERC and one of the professionals involved in the creation of the AMP program.

Current higher education research indicates that a large amount of college student attrition takes place between freshman and sophomore years. Upon the completion of the first semester of FY101, CAS’ new First-Year Experience (FYE) course, the professional staffs of the ERC and CAS got together to discuss ways in which they could continue to engage those students who wanted to avail themselves of support throughout their second semester at BU.

Twenty-six peer mentors were chosen (sophomores, juniors and seniors representing a variety of majors in CAS) and coached by professional staff members from the ERC and CAS. The mentors were trained to discuss topics such as time management, note-taking, test preparation, and goal-setting with their students. The mentors periodically touch base with members of the ERC and CAS professional staff to discuss their conversations with their mentees.

“After the successful pilot of FY101 during the fall semester, we wanted to find a way to provide our first-year students with a commensurate level of academic support in the second semester” explains Ali Bane, director of Student Programs & Leadership. “The one-on-one format of the AMP program is what differentiates it from FY101. So far, the feedback from our AMP mentors and mentees has been incredibly positive.”

Both mentors and mentees are benefitting from the program. Sophomore Cody Doucette, who is in the BA/MA Computer Science program, has enjoyed watching his mentee grow as a student. “The student I’m working with has been willing to go the extra mile this semester and make up for what he didn’t do last semester,” says Cody. “It’s been great to see his success.” Junior Nancy Xia, who double-majors in neuroscience and psychology, wishes that she had had a program like this one when she was a first-year. “I wish I was a freshman because that would have been so helpful,” she says. “If I knew these things freshman year, it would have been so much easier to do better in my classes.”

The program doesn’t just benefit mentees academically, however. Mentors also help their mentees out with advice on adjusting socially to college. “This program is absolutely essential (at a big school),” says Cody. “A lot of these kids struggled socially as well as academically. So having upperclassmen help them find their way is bringing the community closer together, and it’s helping students that may not be here in the fall if it weren’t for this program.” Both Cody and Nancy plan on continuing as mentors next year.

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