The James Farmer Multicultural Center is planning to institute a new peer-mentoring program in fall 2012 called the Resources Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE) program. The program pairs incoming students with upperclassmen mentors based on commonalities, which the Multicultural Center hopes will increase University of Mary Washington’s retention rates.
The RISE mission statement states that the program is “designed to provide a connection for first-year, underrepresented students in their transition to the UMW community.”
According to Marion Sanford, director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, “underrepresented students” include people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual minorities, religious minorities and first-generation college students.
However, Sanford explained that although RISE targets the aforementioned students specifically, anyone may apply to and be accepted into the program, which will be implemented during Fall 2012.
“We envision that [the program] will have a very positive effect on retention,” said Sanford, who believes RISE will help incoming students transition and feel more comfortable in the campus community.
Sanford also said that she hopes the program will increase student satisfaction, which will subsequently increase retention.
“We know that students who feel good about being here stay here, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” she said
Drema Khraibani, a junior and student member of the RISE committee, said she has been involved in the program since the very beginning, passing along opinions, ideas and concerns that UMW students may have
Khraibani, who is a first-generation college student, agreed that the program could increase retention rates.
“[Incoming students] just need some guidance from their peers,” she said. “This program will allow us to guide the students into a greater path than if they were left alone to sink or float.”
Junior Andrew Eames transferred to UMW this year from the Darton Community College in Georgia.
He said he felt “fairly disconnected” and would have liked being a part of RISE.
“Having someone to show me the ropes would have been invaluable,” he said.
Eames explained that, through RISE, he might have participated in more campus activities, and would have been more prepared for course registration.
According to Sanford, the University plans to keep the program relatively small for its “pilot year,” during which it will accept approximately 25 mentors and a similar number of mentees.
UMW’s website for the RISE Peer Mentoring Program states that mentors must have a grade point average of at least 2.5, and other qualities that include good communication skills and leadership experience
“This mentor would be like a big brother or a big sister to a new student,” said Sanford.
She encourages people to apply who would like to make a difference in an incoming student’s experience.
Students may apply to be mentors through the Multicultural Center or through the Multicultural Center’s website.