Friday, May 25, 2018

Berger-Sweeney announces plans for new mentoring network

THEO PESIRIDIS `18

STAFF WRITER

On Tuesday, Nov. 11, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced the creation of an entirely new program designed to support first-year students throughout their first year at Trinity: The Mentoring Network Program. This program, although technically starting this year, still has many structural aspects and details to sort out. However, the focus of the program has been clearly defined, and the basic structure formed.

The program will consist of teams of individuals assigned to support first-year students. The team will include a dean, faculty mentors, a liberal arts graduate, development mentors such as alumni, and upperclassmen serving as peer mentors. The program will also dedicate space on campus for mentor networks to meet and participate in a variety of activities together. These activities will be virtually limitless and will include eating together, communicating about college transition issues and concerns, and even organized recreational sports. Yet the organization of the activities will fall primarily on the shoulders of the students. This goal, if met, will allow students to find and explore activities that their fellow peers will enjoy and foster the sense of self-leadership in the program. Moving forward, the entire process will be open to new ideas, recommendations, and revision through various meetings that will be held by President Berger-Sweeny.

In hearing about the creation of the Mentoring Network Program, many members of the community are still confused about the foundation of a new mentor program when the one Trinity has in place currently, is seemingly working well.  The best way to answer these questions is to explore the differences in structure and focus of the two different programs and understand why the new mentor organization could fulfill many of the voids of the current one.

The primary focus of the new Mentoring Network is to engage students in a more holistic and inclusive manner: to get students more involved and connected with those who share the same interests and follow their interests outside of the classroom. Whether it is casual discussion over lunch in one of the quads, planned trips to museums in downtown Hartford, or even intermural activities such as ultimate frisbee, students will have a greater variety of events to choose from and participate in. Simply, the Mentoring Network will create a far more interesting and diverse experience at Trinity. The belief is that if a greater range of activities and events will be held on campus, larger groups of students will attend and have a good time at them.  The Mentoring Program will serve as a uniting factor between the student body and faculty, and expose individuals to many new interests and ideas than before.

Secondly, the new program aims to break down the fear and stigma surrounding the Hartford area. For first-year students, the transition to living in Hartford can often be overwhelming and create a sense of isolation. Students tend to remain on campus exclusively, and become distant from the surrounding community. Yet, through the group activities provided by the mentoring networks, students will be able to explore more of the amenities of the downtown area. In breaking down this critical barrier, students will have more ways to get off campus throughout the semester and escape from the college for a bit. Sometimes students simply have to get away and new ways need to be envisioned for them to do so. Therefore, the Mentoring Network will help first-years transcend the fear of leaving campus and remedy the common feeling of isolation.

The new Mentoring Program has the potential to bring a lot of excitement, opportunity, and fresh culture to Trinity college, yet key criticisms still remain on how truly successful it will be. Perhaps the greatest worry about the program and its effectiveness is that it will be so heavily dependent on students who desire to organize activities. While many students attend campus events and find happiness in integrating within every facet of the community, others in college prefer to be more individual and do their own thing. In order to facilitate unity, the students themselves must want it. Administrators and Mentor Networks alone cannot force the student body to attend events or connect with faculty. Students may not want to spend their Saturday at a museum with a mentor group or give away free time to meet up for lunch in the midst of a busy academic schedule. They might rather want to relax alone with a close group of friends or stray away from school organization in their off time. Thus, the entire program may find a need to incorporate great flexibility within the organization of events in the future, and continual difficulty in inspiring all students to attend the events that will be held.

New ideas about how to improve the student experience at Trinity College should always be explored and considered. Whether they are the foundation of new events, programs, or even clubs, there are always ways to revise and improve campus life.

While the Mentoring Network may encounter many obstacles in the future prompting change within the program, it could also serve as a major change for Trinity College lower culture. It could make all students feel more comfortable and included within the community, and provide resources for individuals to pursue new ideas and activities. The Mentoring Network could be a refreshing change in the community, and enliven the entire college experience.

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