Alumni Mentors to Assist First-Generation Students

file photo of Coates Bldg.

A pilot program at Eastern Kentucky University will allow current students to navigate University life with the help of those who have already made the journey successfully.

Twelve first-generation EKU students will be selected to participate in the Connecting the Dots Student/Alumni Mentoring program for the spring semester. The program will then pair each student with an alumni mentor, who will serve as a guide, a friend and a resource.

While the project was spearheaded by Terry Wilson, Educational Extension Agent coordinator for EKU, he is quick to point out it that it became a reality through the efforts of many.

“The program’s creation is a result of the collaborative efforts of our agents, Paula Wilder in particular, and Alumni Relations, Admissions, Advising, the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity, and Belk Inc., which provided the funding for the pilot,” he emphasized.

Admissions and Advising will provide input on the selection of the initial group of 12 students. Alumni Relations will review alumni mentor candidates to find the best fit for each student mentee. The Noel Studio will create a series of workshops tailored for the students selected for the program.

The overall goal of the Connecting the Dots program is to increase the retention rate of first-generation students at EKU by providing them with a service that was not previously offered. Wilson noted that the EKU first-time freshmen fall-to-fall retention levels indicate that first-generation students show the lowest retention rate at 58.2 percent.

The pilot program will use a control group of first-generation students (with similar ACT scores to those in the program) who are not involved in the program to help measure its value.

Alumni mentors will be EKU graduates who have used their University education and experience to further pave the way to success, and who derive satisfaction from helping others succeed.

“Alumni mentors have an opportunity to put their own vision, energy and creativity to work, making an important difference in a first-generation EKU student’s life,” said Alumni Relations Director Jackie Collier. “The lives of the mentors will no doubt be changed by the experience as well.”

Belk Associate Daphne Jewell, who worked with the EKU team to find funding for the project, said: “I am proud that we have formed a robust partnership with EKU to bring the new alumni mentoring program to fruition. Community involvement has been an essential part of Belk since day one and we believe that education is the cornerstone of success, so we are happy to make a monetary donation toward launching this program.”

Published on November 21, 2011