For Onondaga Community College (OCC), student engagement equals student success. 

Leaders at OCC not only believe that student-to-student interaction creates the type of sense of belonging that leads to increased student persistence, but they also believe these interactions can alleviate administrative capacity concerns. To ensure they achieve desired outcomes at scale, OCC turned to Mentor Collective to create their Lazer Link peer mentoring program that connects first-year students with returning students.

On June 14th,  we hosted Dean of Students Dr. Scott Schuhert, Professional Advisor Dean Tzivanis, and Student Success Coach Justine Legg to discuss the results of Lazer Link's pilot year - namely the nearly 20% increase in mentee sense of belonging on campus and nearly 10% increase in mentee self-efficacy.

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

About Lazer Link: 

Lazer Link at Onondaga Community College follows Mentor Collective's Student Success program model, focused on matching incoming students with a purposeful, second-year peer mentor. OCC worked collaboratively with MC's program designers to tailor recruitment, matching, and key performance indicators for the program. With the MC dashboard, OCC administrators have a window into the student experience. Mentors are prompted to log conversations and submit early alert flags for mentee concerns; all of which are recorded in the dashboard for administrative measurement, reporting, and oversight. Mentor Collective also deploys pre-, mid-, and post-program surveys to measure mentee and mentor sense of belonging and self-efficacy.

OCC had the benefit of being part of Mentor Collective's inaugural two-year cohort, receiving insights from 10+  two-year partners and the Mentor Collective Research Team. 

Hear More from Program Administrators on Onondaga's Podcast

Key Learnings from the Webinar: 
Higher Education Uses a Language Not All Students Understand

At the heart of OCC's collaboration with Mentor Collective was understanding how peer mentorship supports community college students specifically. Comprised of higher education's most diverse student populations, two-year institutions face the challenge of reaching students with many intersecting identities, including (but not limited to) first-generation students, studenting parents, and adult learners. In addition, data sets from the National Center of Education Statistics show that community college students work a median of 32 hours per week.

Dean Dr. Scott Schuhert pointed out that peer-to-peer mentorship support is recognized as a high-impact strategy for these students because, at a minimum, it helps incoming student decode the language of higher education and helps them find the support they need in an efficient manner:



Peer Mentorship Should Complement Current Programming

OCC has a robust selection of student opportunities programming and was able to work with the Mentor Collective team on program design and a custom matching survey to give students participating in those programs the ability to be matched with peers with that shared interest. Including this critical piece for OCC also meant that programs were not in competition for participation and students were able to connect with their mentor on this and other levels that were important to them. 



Peer Mentorship Helps Institutions Raise Awareness for Support Services 

OCC's commitment to student success is evident from the long list of support services offered (see below). However, as many administrators can attest, the challenge isn't always the quality of services, it's getting the word out to the campus community. Through Lazer Link's peer mentors, OCC had a direct line of communication to the students who had the most to gain from additional institutional support. Mentors were not only positioned to share their personal experiences with the institution, but were provided with training and resources from  Mentor Collective and OCC to pass along to their peers as needed.

OCC Student Success Resource Highlights:

  • Lazer Success: An easy to use online tool that allows faculty to provide direct feedback to students about their course performance.
  • Student Coach and Advising Network: Helps students select courses, explore pathways to degree completion and more.
  • Bias Response Team: Created to address the needs of the campus community and support those impacted by bias incidents
  • Box of Books Program: 1st public college in the nation to partner with Barnes & Noble
  • Children's Learning Center: High-quality, affordable and accessible child care available for OCC students, employees and our community.
Student success coach Justine Legg also noted the importance of the early alert flag system that allows mentors to log concerning conversations or challenges their mentees are facing:

“A few weeks before the spring semester ended a mentor flagged their mentee saying that they were not feeling motivated, they didn’t want to participate in class, they were thinking about dropping out of OCC altogether. Immediately I was able to set up an appointment with that mentee. Come to find out she was just not passionate about the program she was in. Through a series of meetings we were able to determine her career interests...There are different ways success coaches here can intervene based on what concern a mentor raises about their mentee.”

Look Outside the Typical Mentor Pool

When recruitment for mentees and mentors began, professional advisor and program administrator Dean Tzivanis said he "saw a flood of people wanting to be mentored." Unfortunately, mentor enrollment wasn't experiencing the same level of activity. Working with the Mentor Collective team, OCC got creative and added to their mentor pool by reengaging with alumni that had graduated or transferred. 


Investing in Peer Mentorship is Worth It

All panelists agreed that structured peer mentorship delivers on ROI - both when it comes to student sense of belonging and increasing administrative capacity in the face of staff reductions.

Following the pilot year of Lazer Link:

Mentee Sense of Belonging INCREASED 18.67% and Mentee Self-Efficacy INCREASED 8.24%
Mentor Sense of Belonging INCREASED 2.00% and Mentor Self-Efficacy remained FLAT


To hear more about the Onondaga Community College Lazer Link Peer Mentorship 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.