A first-year student’s transition to college can be an intimidating, and at times challenging, experience. At Indiana University, the Kelley School of Business has aimed to ease this upheaval with a peer mentoring program that pairs first year students with upperclassmen.
This not only makes sense for student wellbeing, but is also proven to lead to better student persistence. The National Bureau of Economic Research found students who sign up for a mentor are 14 percent more likely to stay in college and 13 percent more likely to graduate college after four years.
We discussed the benefits students have seen from the Kelley-to-Kelley mentoring program with Director of Student Support Kelly Higgins, especially in light of the pandemic’s isolating impact on student wellbeing and mental health.
Mentoring format: 1:1
Number of Participants: 2,630
Type of Matching: Admin Match
Duration of Mentoring Connections: 37 Weeks
1. What sort of role has mentoring played in your life up to this point?
I am fortunate to have had an impactful mentor in graduate school whose guidance helped shape the course of my career and developed my sense of self as a professional. I keep in communication with them today, and while our relationship has evolved over the years, they are still a source of support. They consistently challenge me to continue growing, while I’ve also been able to give back to them as well.
2. What was the reason Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business started a formal mentoring program for students?
We created our mentoring program to support first year students in their transition to college. There are many challenges associated with adjusting to life at college and we know that the development of community is correlated to student success.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, connection and fostering a sense of community became more important than ever while students were more isolated than at any other time in the program. We shifted our focus to creating more meaningful connections and support by increasing engagement.
3. How have you utilized peer mentoring to focus on overall student wellbeing, balance, and inclusivity?
Our matching algorithm focuses on worries related to college and personal interests in an effort to create strong connections that are outside of major or career focus. Once students are matched, our mentoring connection plan—which guides them through their relationships—is focused on promoting wellbeing, exploring interests on campus, and developing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) through tasks, resources and milestones.
4. How did you go about promoting your mentoring program before and after the launch of it?
Every first year student is invited to the program personally through email. We also discuss the peer mentoring program in our pre-college and admissions programming, so they’re already familiar with it when the invitation arrives.
The program is also featured on our Student Support website, and we have in-person or virtual events each semester to boost engagement. Faculty and staff, who are regularly working with students, are also made aware of the program and encouraged to refer students to sign up if they are struggling with their college transition any time throughout their first academic year.
We have been very fortunate that our students are invested in giving back to the community and are enthusiastic about serving as mentors for students entering the Kelley family.
5. What is one thing you wish you knew before launching a student peer mentoring program?
I wish I had understood how useful the mentoring program could be for the Undergraduate Program as a whole. We have learned throughout the years:
- what an effective communication channel it is
- how willing mentors are to step into other leadership and helping roles
- how to best present the goals of the program
6. How have you introduced mentorship training into your mentoring program? How has it been beneficial to the overall mentoring relationships?
We provide training to mentors each academic year. This helps us to establish the purpose of the program, the role of the mentor, and where to get additional resources and support for if/when a mentee’s needs exceed the boundaries of the mentor/mentee relationship. This has cleared up any confusion about the goals of the program and allowed for successful execution of the mentoring connection plans.
7. What are your metrics of a successful mentoring program?
We regularly utilize the available reports related to the health of our connections. Because we’ve reached our goals related to scale, we are focused on the quality of the connections:
- Are pairs connecting?
- Are mentees turning to mentors when they need support?
We are also tracking the overall health of our community, with peer mentoring being a key component of our overall Student Support programming.
8. What is the biggest impact mentoring software has had on mentoring in your organization?
The mentoring software is critical in the success of a program at our scale. It would be exceedingly difficult to match and facilitate connections without the use of the Chronus platform. The data collected also allows us to engage in continuous process improvement to improve student experience year over year. We also utilize the software as a key communication channel for targeted programming related to our mental health/wellness and DEIB initiatives.
9. How else are you looking to evolve mentoring across your academic experience?
We are hoping to utilize the program to begin training students in additional mental wellness, mentoring, and DEIB skills such that participation provides critical skill development along with all of the other benefits of mentoring. We have also explored connecting current students with prospective students, as well as alumni, to provide the benefits of mentorship throughout a student’s journey.
Want to learn how the Chronus platform can elevate your mentoring program? Request Demo Today!