ChBE101 Students Participate in Pilot Student-Mentoring Program
Students transferring to the University of Maryland from two-year community colleges are required to take ChBE 101 – their introduction to chemical engineering – during the summer semester, but many find the intensive six-week course overwhelming. These students, who are all new to campus, typically look at a challenging transition period, to say the least.
“As an advisor, I saw many of my transfer advisees struggling with this transition, which extended into struggling in the fall semester,” said Deborah Goldberg, a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “I thought that having an upperclassmen mentor, particularly one who also transferred from community college would really help to ease the transition of these students into our program. While I can advise them on study skills, adjusting to campus, etc., it is much more impactful coming from a student who recently went through the process.”
The summer cohort also includes internal UMD transfers, as well as students who need to re-take the class. Goldberg figured these populations could also benefit from an upperclassmen mentor, so she went about putting the program into action. By the end of 2017 spring semester, Goldberg had recruited eight (soon-to-be) senior mentor volunteers: Soliver Fusi, Deiaa Harraz, Brendan Hensel, Tanya Kiryutina, Ricky Morales, Nina Uchida, Hanchu Wang, Samantha Weaver.
The program kicked off over the summer semester, June 8 – July 6, 2017, with a ‘panel discussion’ class, during which the eight mentors introduced themselves and offered 35 students advice on how to study for exams, exam taking strategies, fitting in as a "non-traditional" student, the importance of study groups, and the psychological aspects of succeeding in such a challenging major. Students had a chance to ask questions and to talk to the mentors individually afterwards. After the event, students were matched into groups of 4-5 students per mentor.
Throughout the rest of the summer, the student/mentor groups met multiple times, in and outside of class, to discuss student progress. Social engagements also became the norm, and several friendships developed as a result.
ChBE rising senior and volunteer mentor, Nina Uchida, suggested more interaction between the upper and lower classmen would also be beneficial. “The transition as a transfer student last year into the summer ChBE program was tough for me,” she said. “I personally would have benefited from having a peer mentor who had been through the same experience, and could offer support and advice. I think the summer program was successful, and I am looking forward to keeping in touch with my mentees in the upcoming academic year!”
The course and program received very positive feedback overall. Indeed, when asked in an anonymous survey offered by Goldberg, "What was your favorite part of the mentoring program?", student responses had a similar theme, which included:
Based on such positive feedback, Goldberg intends to offer this mentoring program again during the academic year.
“Although it was originally designed with transfer students in mind, I believe all new chemical engineering students can benefit from a mentor who has ‘been there/ done that’ and succeeded,” she said. “It also provides a great leadership opportunity for upper-class students and fosters departmental community. Overall I am very happy with how the pilot program went and excited to see how we can improve it over time to serve student needs the best.”
August 28, 2017