The Campus Connections Program is a newly instituted service for first-year students. It takes all first-year students and pairs them up with a mentor on campus. These mentors are staff members who volunteered, and they “are the people not interacting with students on a daily basis,” as John Young, the Dean of Admissions, put it.
The purpose of the mentors is to act as a more personal resource on campus, especially for new students, and, of course, to make connections with those students. Mary-Ann Rolfe described it by saying that it “doesn’t have to be about academics.” The point is to have a resource — to “have a person to ask questions to.” The program allows a staff member on campus to provide support for students, who will be able to know another person on campus.
By creating such connections, students have another friendly face and another type of resource for a variety of situations. Mentors can help students with projects, find other resources, act as a sounding board for homesick students and simply be another person to help them. As Vice President for Campus Life Rob Flowers quoted Lisa Kendrick, “the more adults students connect with, the better they become.” He also made it clear that this program is set in place to help the students, as the Hobart and William Smith institutions “don’t rely on size to assume connections will happen.”
As previously stated, the staff mentors involved are all volunteers for the program who responded to the call. About 60 staff members are involved from all over campus. Each staff member is paired with about 10 first-year students. These pairings are randomly assigned based on reference numbers. As some of the staff is from outreach, any staff members who may have already had a relationship were asked to switch students, so the expansion of connections was ensured.
This relationship is also very much up to the student, as they can meet with their mentor once or twice with the result of simply having met another staff member. Other students take it a step further and use their mentor more as a tool, though the relationship is completely up to the student and how much time he or she has to meet with the mentor.
The staff involved wanted to be sure that it was understood that this is not a program to replace any existing relationships and programs, but is another one to extend the relationships on campus and to help students who are new to the school. Rolfe said that the relationship formed “doesn’t rise to the level of academic advisor.” Instead, it is made to work in conjunction with the rest of the school’s pre-existing connections.
This is similar to a program used last year that connected families of students and prospective students with a liaison. The old program worked, but it focused more on the families and not on the students, so it was replaced with the new program, which focuses on students individually instead.
Overall, the staff who worked on this program seemed excited about the new program and its implementation, since they “get to meet the first-year class.” As a new resource open to first-year students, this program was made to make the transition to life at Hobart and William Smith easier, and to give students another resource for any help they may need.