By Tysheira Scribner
Little Grizzly, Little Grizzly, Let Me In! It’s mid-semester and it’s almost time to re-register — only you haven’t moved passed the “Big Bad Wolf.”
You know the two of you are bound to meet faceto-face, so why not switch it up a little this time and offer him his own warm cup of delicious coffee? GGC is a liberal arts institution in which there is great focus on engaging student-faculty relationships. GGC’s official vision statement supports this stating, “It [GGC] will be a dynamic learning community where faculty engagement in teaching and mentoring students will be the hallmark.”
The mission statement adds, “Georgia Gwinnett College’s outstanding faculty and staff actively engage students in various learning environments serve as mentors and advisors and assist students through programs designed to enhance their academic, social and personal development.” As public figures like our country’s first lady promote the usefulness of education in one’s lifetime, it’s good to see institutions follow along and help students push through their college experience, especially with useful tools like mentor systems.
A mentorship serves as a personal and/ or professional developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. It’s like having your own personal cheerleader, without the miniskirts and pom-poms, of course. The mentorship at GGC is quite different than what goes on at other schools. GGC’s system is much more formal and structured. You are all aware of the seemingly dreadful hold placed upon you until you drag your butts into the chairs upon your mentor’s offices, or to one of the school’s atriums, in search of an unfamiliar face. But mentors aren’t just for registration.
They’re intended to advise you on future goals, internship ideas, study habits, personal issues, or even just to chat with you over that cup of coffee. Though it may seem inconvenient, the mentor system can have a greater benefit, when used properly. There are positive, caring relationships to be built, ones that will make that letter of recommendation you’ll need, way less generic, but personal and make believing. SLA Dean Dr. Santos, a first generation college student himself, says he was especially drawn to GGC because of the mentor system. He believes it is one of the things that make GGC special. “This is very cool,” he said.
“We have a very strong commitment to this. The vast majority of our faculty takes it seriously. This is important to them,” he added. Mentors shouldn’t just be an obstacle to your registration, and if your mentor is just a “Big Bad Wolf” to circumvent, then consider asking one of your professors to be your mentor instead. “My mentor used to be Dr. Keiley,” said Rodica Kajanovic, a senior political science major. “But she left GGC when we were still working on my credit substitutions from before I came to the U.S. I had class with Dr. Budryte and she is also from Europe so Iasked her to help me work out which classes were equivalent. I know she did a lot of research,” Kajanovic continued.
Dr. Kristina Mormino, a French and global studies professor at GGC, and SLA’s senior mentor, spoke of three instances in which having a mentor would be beneficial. Three types of students who especially benefit from good mentors are the transfer student, the first generation college student, and the “Oops, I didn’t realize there was a prerequisite for this course” student. Transfer students aren’t always aware of policies like the mandatory Georgia history and constitution rule, and first generation college students simply need a little support.
Mormino is also aware of cases where students don’t graduate when expected because they unknowingly make wrong class choice decisions, another reason why having a good mentor is helpful. GGC junior biology major Jordan Duncan said he believes a good mentor should be capable of advising a student in such a way that the student obtains the best education possible.
“A good mentor is someone willing to go the extra mile for their mentees,” he said. “They should be well versed and able to guide students down his or hers careers path to the best of their ability, and willing to find answers to things they don’t already know.” When GGC first opened, all incoming freshmen were required to take a “freshman success” course, in which students were taught necessary skills and given helpful information in order to get through their college experience.
That course vanished as GGC’s student body grew tremendously. While Mormino believes having a single mentor throughout one’s entire undergraduate career is best, it is almost inevitable for students to have a change in mentors at least once. Students change their majors, declare majors after being undecided, and staff members don’t always return. “When my mentor was reassigned automatically, I asked Dr. Budryte to continue as my mentor and I emailed the registrar to switch. There was nothing wrong with the mentor they gave me, but I switched to Dr. Budryte because she already knew and understood my situation,” Kajanovic recalled.
One thing standing in the way of fulfilling part of GGC’s vision is the “mentor” who simply allows his or hers mentees to send an email with his or hers desired courses in exchange for removing the mentor hold, especially for students who actually want that mentor-mentee relationship.
Equally harmful is the student who sets an appointment with his or her mentor but doesn’t show up. Louis Edwards, a senior political science and international relations major at GGC, has had the same mentor since he enrolled two years ago. “I’m quite sure the mentoring program is good for others but for me it is somewhat useless. I pretty much self mentor,” said Edwards. While students typically meet with their mentors at least twice a year, Edwards has only met with his mentor twice in the last two years.
Edward remembers the time he had an appointment with his mentor in which his mentor never showed up, even after Edwards waited a hour, attempted to both call and email his mentor, but didn’t receive any response until days later, stating his mentor hold had been lifted. For cases like this, Santos said, “That’s a problem.” Though we are in an era of technology, we don’t want these mentor-mentee relationships to be based solely through keyboards and computer screens. But it takes two in this give-take relationship.
“A lot of my mentees don’t seek me out until they’re ready to sign up for classes. We have a lot to offer,” Santos mentioned. Santos wants students to take full advantage of their mentorships, and believes mentors can be “great advocates” for students. “I would love for our students to know their mentors are there to help them. Reach out to them! It’s certainly true some faculty have tight schedules but set some time aside to go chat with them. I have never been invited by a mentee for a cup of coffee. I think if a mentee invited me for a cup of coffee I’d say let’s do it!”
It’s undeniable that GGC has grown remarkably over the last years but the vision remains the same. The School of Business itself has additional advisors to assist students; still, every student has been assigned a mentor. Bears, throw on your grizzly gear, leave your stigmas at the door and realize he may not be such a “Big Bad Wolf” after all.