Minority mentoring replaced with broader program

Elaine Helm

Northwestern’s minority mentoring program, offered through the Multicultural Center, has been cut this year. But a new program called First Year Involvement, open to freshmen regardless of ethnicity, will take its place.

FYI program administrators invited freshmen living in Bobb Hall, McCulloch Hall, Elder Hall and Allison Hall to participate. About 135 students have registered for the seven-week, non-credit class to date, according to Communication junior Siris Rivas who developed the program’s curriculum.

Next year, the program will be open to all first-year students.

Rivas, who participated in the minority mentoring program as a freshman and served as a sophomore mentor last year, said many non-minority students expressed interest in mentoring while she was involved.

“I’m all about increasing community here,” she said. “We are showing (freshmen) that there a lot of positive outcomes to being involved strategically.”

FYI’s curriculum will emphasize using students’ goals and understandings of their own strengths to decide what activities and student groups to join, Rivas said. The program’s classes will begin Sept. 30 and meet weekly in the participating residence halls.

Tamara Kagel, Associated Student Government’s academic vice president, said she is nervous FYI will not adequately replace the minority mentoring program because the two have different agendas.

“The minority mentoring program was about helping students find out whether they wanted to be involved, and, if not, then supporting them anyway,” said Kagel, a Communication junior.

FYI sounds good for future leaders, she said, but said the program does not target those students who need it most. Kagel also said she worried minority students who do not live in dorms involved in FYI this year will feel marginalized.

When running for office last spring, Kagel made advising and mentoring part of her platform. Despite recent advances, such as the revamping of advising in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, she characterized NU’s mentoring and advising programs as “not adequate.”

Alan Fu, chairman of the Asian American Advisory Board, said he is working with Asian American Student Services to develop a big brother and big sister mentoring program for Asian-American students that could be implemented this quarter.

“By the end of the year,” he said, “we will have developed a fully structured mentoring program that might even involve alumni.”

Fu, a Weinberg senior, speculated that other students and officials with African American Student Affairs and Hispanic/Latino Student Services would develop similar programs.

Mary Desler, associate vice president for student affairs, said FYI provides all students the opportunity to take advantage of mentoring services.

“We thought that making connections was valuable for all freshmen,” she said. “I don’t think anything is lost.”