Administrators understand that student success is a shared responsibility across campus, but putting action to theory can get tricky. Between budgets, politics, and skeleton crews, institutions face their own invisible barriers to progress.

On February 2nd, we convened leaders in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs from leading inclusive polytechnic university Cal Poly Pomona to discuss the impetus behind their most recent student success collaboration with Mentor Collective - the Bronco Navigators peer mentorship program. 

Watch the full webinar or read key learnings from the event below.

About the program: 

Bronco Navigators is a first-year experience peer-to-peer mentorship program through Mentor Collective that uses a highly responsive  platform to design, manage, and analyze large-scale mentorship programs. Cal Poly Pomona designed their program with their Mentor Collective mentorship team to focus on supporting incoming undergraduate students that often miss getting captured by the school’s smaller affinity mentorship programs and summer success programs. 

Through manageable and effective surveys, lower-division students were matched with upper-division peers that shared experiences or identities important to the mentee. Volunteer student mentors additionally received training and resources from both Mentor Collective and Cal Poly Pomona to ensure they felt prepared and comfortable with the role’s responsibilities and platform’s features. 

Our panelists: 

 

Event Panelist Slide - SAVE with No Background

Event Panelist Slide - SAVE with No Background (2)

Dora Lee, Ed.D.

Director, Academic Support and Learning Services, Office of Student Success, Equity, and Innovation, Cal Poly Pomona

Janetta Dismuke

Director, First Year and Transition Experience, Cal Poly Pomona

 

Key Learnings:

Mentorship offers navigational support for students entering their first year of college right from the intent to enroll.

As part of the California State University system, Cal Poly Pomona is working toward improving degree completion rates by 2025 (known as the GI 2025 initiative) through 6 key components deemed critical to student success. 

  • Academic Preparation
  • Enrollment Management
  • Student Engagement & Well-Being
  • Financial Support
  • Data-Informed Decision Making
  • Administrative Barriers

Dr. Dora Lee said this is one of many reasons the university explored mentorship and specifically a large-scale mentorship platform that offered analytics, a window into the student experience, and opportunities for incoming and returning students to connect to their campus despite being physically removed from the classroom. 

Janetta Dismuke added that mentorship has long been considered by academics as one of few high-impact practices for student success, encouraging active (not passive) college experiences. 

With our mentees, it’s really learning about new resources and services on our campus, advocacy and research, new possibilities and social skills. And with our mentors, they volunteer because they really want their mentees to be successful. Oftentimes the mentors have had experiences where they didn't always feel encouraged or they didn't feel as though they had someone to keep pushing them and giving them the resources that they needed. Often they didn't know where to turn if they need tutoring or some academic planning resources, and so they want to give back to their mentees to be able to provide that smoother transition for them.”

Traditional mentorship can leave some students behind.

Dora noted that a low barrier to entry for students - both mentees and mentors - was a very attractive component to the Mentor Collective program. When students enter college, especially when they are the first in their family to do so, mentorship isn’t often at the forefront of their mind. For those who DO think about having a mentor, the stereotypical image of a sage faculty member and formal meetings can be intimidating or appear reserved for a select group of students. 

"I see our program as a conduit to opening up mentorship to more than just those who typically receive a mentor in their life, so being part of Mentor Collective has given us the opportunity to expand this privilege to more than just the hundreds of students that are part of a small program.”

Part of Cal Poly Pomona's modernized mentorship approach is Flag reporting, a Mentor Collective feature that gives mentors the ability to alert Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to student challenges.

"We love the flags. That has been a really good tool for us to understand what our incoming students are experiencing in terms of their needs and challenges. We were actually able to save some of our students from dis-enrolling because they were experiencing some transitional challenges.” - Dr. Dora Lee

Mentorship programs need to be flexible to fit the multiple identities of mentees and mentors.

Janetta built on the notion of accessible mentorship with how Mentor Collective offers support and flexibility for students wanting to become a mentor. Before connecting with a mentee, mentors receive comprehensive training on their role and the resources available to them. This training is offered at different times throughout the week, so that students are able to fit it into their busy schedules.

“Our mentors are volunteers and so they’re balancing a lot of different things at the same time that they're giving back to the campus community, so we had to recognize that students have so many different identities…it was important for us to have a mentoring program that can assist us with the training and meet the students’ needs.

Learn more about Mentor Collective's Mentor Training.

Uniting stakeholders and collaborating across divisions is possible when the time is taken to have open and honest conversations.

Cal Poly Pomona’s Student Affairs and Academic Affairs teams co-own the Bronco Navigators program, reviewing the engagement and flags from the central Mentor Collective hub. This collaboration, however, came after a substantial amount of pre-work, where the two division leaders engaged with their peers across campus to address concerns and align on vision. 

It takes conversations; being open and honest about what we have, we don't have, what each area can contribute. That's really how I ran into Janetta. Although we work together in a lot of areas, it was a conversation about how we can support students during this time of COVID. How do you develop a sense of belonging from the moment they submit their intent to register or enroll?” - Dr. Dora Lee

Students want to support their peers.

Even with the inclusive culture of Cal Poly Pomona, Dora and Janetta were pleasantly surprised to see the outpouring of support from upper-division students.

“We started off with an 800 [mentorship] match goal, and we thought we may not even reach that goal. In less than a month, we exceeded the 800 matches and we increased it by another thousand. Within another month we exceeded that.”  - Dr. Dora Lee

“It blows our mind when we log into the platform. One day maybe we have 1,500 mentors sign up and then the next day it jumps to 1,800. We’ve been very surprised with the feedback from our campus community and from our students, but I think it really speaks to the time that we’re in. Being in the pandemic, the students really need and want that support. They’re not in class to see their classmate and ask ‘hey, who should I take for this class,’ but they're able to talk to a mentor and have that relationship established early on. I think that that certainly helps their process.”  - Janetta Dismuke

To hear more from the Cal Poly Pomona and Mentor Collective teams about this program, watch the full recording of the discussion. To start a conversation about how to utilize mentorship to engage and support your students, contact Mentor Collective.