April 2, 2012

Grad School Creates Mentorship Program For Undergraduates

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Cornell’s Graduate School has recently launched its “Graduates Mentoring Undergraduates” program, a partnership that pairs undergraduates who are considering graduate school with graduate student mentors, according to Sheri Notaro, associate dean for inclusion and professional development. The pilot program is currently geared toward students who have been historically underrepresented at the University.“I initially proposed the program to foster connections between graduate students and undergraduate students and to provide graduate students with a professional development opportunity,” she said. “Graduates Mentoring Undergraduates,” also known as GSMU, is being launched as a pilot to determine the aspects of the program that will be most beneficial to both mentors and mentees, according to Ricardo Gonzalez, programs advisor and coordinator of pre-professional programs at the University.“Through our pilot program, we hope to gain a greater insight into the needs of undergraduates who desire to take the next step to graduate and professional school,” Gonzalez said.Notaro said she hopes that the program will provide an easily accessible resource for undergraduates to seek information about future opportunities.“The mentoring we envision in this pilot phase of the GSMU is informal and unstructured, consisting of mentors providing tips, advice and guidance regarding the decision to attend graduate school, the application process, funding of graduate school and general information about life as a graduate student,” Notaro said.For the pilot program, Notaro said the GSMU identified graduate student mentors through graduate student color groups, including the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Indigenous Graduate Student Association, the Latino Graduate Student Coalition and the Society for Asian American Graduate Affairs.“The current program is geared toward students who have been historically underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate education, which includes students from ethnic backgrounds that are non-White, as well as students who are the first in their families to pursue a four-year college degree,” Notaro said.While graduate students may volunteer to mentor, Notaro selects graduate student mentors for the program based on their academic records, community service and previous mentoring experience, she said.   All undergraduates interested in attending graduate school are permitted to join GSMU as mentees, according to Gonzalez, who said he is recruiting students to join the program.At a launch event on March 14, the graduate student mentors and undergraduate mentees met for the first time. They discussed their career goals and planned their first informalevent, according to Notaro. “The launch was a success and a great start,” Gonzalez said. “The graduate students were given time to briefly introduce themselves, their background, their undergraduate study and to briefly talk about their studies at Cornell.” Undergraduates are not always farmiliar with the process of becoming a graduate student according to Gonzalez.“Through this mentorship, the hope is that undergraduates can have a personal resource and support,” Gonzalez said. GSMU mentor Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo grad echoed this statement.“There are so many websites, books and articles that can project a particular depiction of graduate school, so I think it’s important for a number of these students to have a real human being with whom they can consult consistently about their questions and concerns,” Lumumba-Kasongo said.GSMU mentor Keenan Valentine grad said that he joined the program because he wants to help other students. “I see GSMU as a springboard for mentees to become more and achieve more,” Valentine said. “As a mentor, my first joy will always be helping others achieve in their own way.”Lumumba-Kasongo said he hopes to provide other students with an opportunity that he was lucky to have.  “I became a GSMU mentor because I think it’s important to pay it forward,” he said. “I am where I am today in part because I had excellent mentors as a child and young adult.”Notaro said she has been working on the program –– which was developed by the Graduate School’s Office of Inclusion and Professional Development and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives –– since August.

Original Author: Rebekah Foster