Faculty Mentoring Initiatives program kicks off with lively event

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Interaction between faculty and students complemented by message from Professor Carolyn Calloway-Thomas

Nervous glances and small talk quickly gave way to in-depth discussion and genuine camaraderie Wednesday evening at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center’s Grand Hall. A mix of students and faculty, gathered for an event hosted by Faculty Mentoring Initiatives, a new program at IU Bloomington that pairs faculty members with IU Bloomington sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

The faculty really care and want to be involved. Those who’ve signed up to be mentors have good hearts and goodintentions, and I think the students are really going to benefit from that tremendously,” said Faculty Mentoring Initiatives Director Arnell Hammond. “Some of the students just want someone to talk to, someone beyond their academic and career advisors, who can help them. The students in the program are sophomores, juniors, and seniors, so they’re getting ready to graduate or trying to find ways to network or find internships, and just work through some issues.”

Faculty Mentoring Initiatives was implemented in January 2016, and more than 100 faculty members are already serving as mentors to nearly 150 students for the 2016-17 academic year. Part of IU Bloomington’s Mentoring Services and Leadership Development Program, a unit within the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), the program aims to enhance undergraduate student retention and timely degree completion through faculty mentoring students one-on-one or in small groups via email, phone, in person and at large group events with campus partners. Mentors and protégés will determine when, where, how often, and for how long they will meet during the semester, while faculty will receive support from the Faculty Mentoring Initiatives staff.

The faculty really care and want to be involved. Those who’ve signed up to be mentors have good hearts and good intentions, and I think the students are really going to benefit from that tremendously

Arnell Hammond

Students, faculty both eager to get started

Many of the mentors and protégés were meeting each other for the first time at Wednesday’s event, which explains the initial uncertainty of many attendees. But it wasn’t due to lack of eagerness, as early-arriving students were chomping at the bit to meet their new mentors.

“I just hope I get some guidance. I take a lot of science class and I’m pre-physician’s assistant, so I’d just like more of the perspective of a science teacher or somebody to tell me, ‘Hey, this is something that’s practical in the real world and this is what you should get out of this class,’ versus me just memorizing facts. I think I’m just excited to have an older person to talk to about it,” said Patricia Manio, a sophomore from Marion, Ind.

“Freshman year, they just kind of tell you if you’re pre-med or on the same track, you should take a lot of science classes. But in my head, I wondered, ‘Why, what’s the practical use of certain classes?’ It definitely gets stressful to a point. My mentor is in the Chemistry department and she’ll probably help me a lot, because I struggle with chemistry for some reason.”

Speaker’s talk relatable to faculty and students alike

Following the informal, productive meet-and-greet (accompanied by free food, a favorite of both college students and faculty on the move), Professor Carolyn Calloway-Thomas gave a talk about intercultural and intergenerational communication. Focusing on themes like goodwill to others and email etiquette, the IU African American and African Diaspora Studies chairperson captured the audience with tales from her childhood and distinguished career alike.

Doctor Carolyn Calloway-ThomasUsing relatable anecdotes, Calloway-Thomas also discussed concepts such as low-context and high-context communication, and direct and indirect communication, intriguing the students and drawing in her fellow faculty. A native of Louisiana who has maintained her Southern values when it comes to manners, Calloway-Thomas stressed the importance of students showing faculty the proper respect when communicating with them, whether electronically or in person.

“I asked her [Calloway-Thomas] to speak because she is an expert in intergenerational and intercultural communication, and I think that they needed to have that foundation,” said Hammond. “Some are still thinking about majors, or they’re thinking about grad school or medical school, and how you go from ‘here,’ as an undergrad, to ‘there,’ where you want to go. And those are things that the faculty can help them with because they’ve been there and done that, and they have that long perspective.”

Students and faculty interested in participating in Faculty Mentoring Initiatives can contact Hammond at hammonda@indiana.edu.