Hollie Rodriguez knows the important role a mentor can play in a student’s educational experience.
“I had a handful of informal mentors from all over campus,” said Rodriguez, who graduated from NIU in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in English. “Mentors in Career Services, from my major program, and even my work-study job made a huge difference in my experience at NIU.”
Rodriguez’s positive experience is one reason she signed up to be a mentor in the Student-Faculty Links mentoring program at NIU. The program, aimed at first-year students, connects new Huskies with faculty and staff who are there to help them navigate university life and encourage them to get involved on campus.
“I wanted to see if I could help return the favor by working with our incoming students through the mentoring program,” said Rodriguez, who is an instructor with NIU STEAM.
Jac Cooper, associate director of NIU’s Orientation and First Year Programs, said mentoring is a key piece to student success in college.
“Starting college can be challenging, and mentors provide a support system when students need one most,” Cooper said. “Mentors can be experts, guides, friends, supporters and challengers who are there to help their mentees grow.”
Last year more than 200 new students signed up for the program, and more than 50 faculty and staff joined as mentors.
“It’s important for new Huskies,” Cooper said. “Mentors introduce students to resources, act as a listening ear, and help them form a new community at NIU when they are far from their original one.”
Mentors in the program receive support from Office of Orientation and First Year Programs team, along with online trainings and monthly modules that help faculty and staff succeed in the role.
Cooper said the program is a win-win.
“Mentors get the opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life,” Cooper said. “They can interact with the student population in a new way and it can help bring a sense of purpose to the journey you are on at NIU.”
Rodriguez agreed, adding that the relationships she formed as a student mentee continued into her professional life after graduation.
“Having had mentors really helped propel me once I graduated,” Rodriguez said. “I was able to secure a job in a field I was passionate about and could turn to multiple folks with all sorts of experience for advice.”
Take the next step and pay it forward. Apply to be a Student-Faculty Links mentor by May 31.