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Alumni Mentoring And First Year Course: A Valuable Link

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Innovations in Freshman Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.157.1 - 7.157.11

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Paper Authors

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Theodore Zern

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Richard Grabiec

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Session 3553

Alumni Mentoring and First Year Seminar: A Valuable Link

Richard Grabiec, Theodore Zern Western New England College Springfield, Massachusetts


For a number of years, Western New England College has invested in the value of initiatives targeted at first-year students. The work of John Gardner and Lee Upcraft (1989) has provided ample documentation to support the worth of such endeavors. With that work in mind, the First-Year Program at Western New England College specifically focuses on helping first-year students develop a sense of purpose, attain a realization of place and develop future direction. Additionally, the work of Arthur Chickering (1969) has provided a theoretical framework for these objectives and, together with institutional experience, has provided an increased awareness that engaging students from multiple perspectives is more often than not responsible for helping students develop academically and socially.

Success as a college student requires development of a strong personal network of support, connection among peers and purposeful awareness of their course of study. Studies of how college effects students by Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) offer citation after citation as to the value and importance of the concept of mentorship, i.e., connection to faculty, staff, students and others within the chosen college community. Two concepts clearly emerge from the literature: 1) successful freshman are more satisfied when they feel that their learning will somehow have usefulness in later life; and, 2) freshman need to understand and accept the relevancy of the college experience to their personal development. (Gardner and Upcraft, 1989) To foster realization of these conditions for its first-year students, the School of Engineering implemented a unique partnership with recent engineering alumni. The Alumni Mentoring Program (AMP) pairs first-year engineering students as protégés with recent engineering alumni as mentors to provide regular opportunity for learning beyond the classroom. The AMP is configured within the context of a required first-year seminar in order to give the AMP a point of reference and a vehicle for implementation. The principal focus of the AMP is to assist first-year engineering students in assembling a practical look at their area of career interest, establishing a point of relevancy for the engineering curriculum and building personal and professional contacts.

During the 2000-2001 academic year, a voluntary pilot AMP utilized standard e-mail communications between students and alumni as the principal source of communication. Forty first-year engineering students and thirty engineering alumni participated. Both protégés and mentors appreciated the opportunity to share perspectives, protégés benefited from the experience of mentors, mentors benefited from being able to share


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Zern, T., & Grabiec, R. (2002, June), Alumni Mentoring And First Year Course: A Valuable Link Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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