This fall 13 students at William Woods University are finding a new way to become involved on campus through a unique program called Connections. This course, new to the curriculum, gives current students the opportunity to expand their leadership capabilities by allowing them to become mentors to the incoming freshman class.
Connections is an hour-long, eight-week class that must be taken first semester and is taught by one faculty member and one mentor. This class is required for every freshman and for transfer students with fewer than 12 hours of college credit.
According to Michelle Stephens, director of student success and transition, “The goal of Connections is to ease first-time students into the college atmosphere and way of life by improving relationships between students and faculty, making students aware of campus services, educating students on acceptable social behaviors and, above all, providing skills to make each person a better, more successful student.”
She explained that the program offers a comforting link between the structure of high school and the independence of college with the help of shared student experiences and friendships.
The Connections program was developed by a committee of faculty and staff. Participating, in addition to Stephens, were Marshall Robb, assistant professor of physical education and health sciences; Harriet Yelon, associate professor of social work; Shane Webb, assistant professor of biology; Beth Tidball, academic adviser, and Sherry McCarthy, associate academic dean. Stephens and Tidball are directors of the course and McCarthy developed the specific activities.
“Research shows,” McCarthy said, “that incoming students who form a relationship with a student already on campus who can help them make the transition to what college requires will be more likely to stay on campus and graduate. We wanted to provide the freshmen with good role models with whom they can form that relationship.”
McCarthy added that “the student mentors serve as more than just role models. They provide feedback about the course curriculum, assist the instructor and steer students to other campus resources.”
To become a mentor in Connections at William Woods University, each student had to fill out an application and complete an interview process during the spring semester.
Stephens said she was looking for specific qualities in the prospective mentors: strong leadership and communication skills; a sense of teamwork, innovation and creativity; a committed and responsible personality; stress tolerance; an ability to make good decisions, and a positive outlook about William Woods.
The freshman are not the only students benefiting from this new curriculum addition. Mentors in Connections receive a stipend of $250, as well as the possibility of lasting friendships with students they may not have otherwise met, and valuable experience useful for resumes and job interviews.
Stephens describes the new Connections class at William Woods as a win-win situation. She said both parties benefit from interaction with an exciting, unique atmosphere and diverse group of people.
The current mentors are Kimberli Ahrens of Ballwin, Mo.; Sarah Brison of New Bloomfield, Mo.; Shanna Lonsberry of Elsberry, Mo.; Meghan Parks of Quincy, Ill.; Lynne Riedemann of St. Peters, Mo.; Carina Robley of Mexico, Mo.; Andrea Rosser of Foristell, Mo.; Joel Watson of Oronogo, Mo.; Bethany Campbell, Lindsey Hackman and Megan Means of Fulton, Mo.; Lindsey Mertes of Branson, Mo., and Patty Heppner of Holden, Mo.