When Chotsani West, M.A. '07, returned to Adelphi in 2014 to start the University's Mentoring Program, her task was to help improve the retention rate of students of color.
When Chotsani West, M.A. ’07, returned to Adelphi in 2014 to start the University’s Mentoring Program, her task was to help improve the retention rate of students of color. Beginning with an initial group of 10 students and an equal number of mentors that first year, she oversaw the rapid growth of the program and its success in meeting its goals. Not only has the retention rate of all students in the Mentoring Program risen substantially, but the cumulative GPA of students in the program is now higher than that of all other undergraduates.
“I know students who would not have graduated if it weren’t for this program,” said Perry Greene, Ph.D., Adelphi University vice president for diversity and inclusion.
This year, the Mentoring Program has grown to 148 participants, with 74 students matched in a on-to-one model with 74 volunteer mentors. The program’s mission has expanded, too, serving veteran, LGBTQ+, first-generation, as well as any other students who wish to join.
“We offer students the support they need,” said West, now Adelphi’s director of student mentoring. “Students may feel that they don’t have a voice, or they may not feel connected to life on campus. We pair faculty, staff members and other role models with them. Mentees drive the relationships; mentors are there to listen and to help guide.”
The program does not rely on a cookie-cutter approach to helping students. West developed the program’s curriculum, which is evidence based, with structured guidelines and national best practices. Mentors receive initial training for their roles and ongoing coaching from West, all designed to help them address each student’s unique needs.
“Our mentors meet students where they are,” West said. “That’s vital to building the trust needed to allow students to talk about the things they want to discuss, from their classes, to their relationships with friends and communications with professors, to financial concerns and career goals.”
The Mentoring Program also supports students looking to enhance their leadership skills. Antonette White joined the program in the spring of her sophomore year as she prepared to serve as president of the Black Students United campus organization. By January of the following year, she and her mentor received the Mentor/Mentee of the Year Award from the Mentoring Program. A few months later, she won a prestigious Newman Civic Fellows Award, given to student leaders across the country who are committed to solving problems facing communities. She is currently spending part of her senior year attending fellowship events and workshops.
Adelphi’s Mentoring Program is always open to new students. Chances are great that many will be encouraged to join by the programs and events scheduled for National Mentoring Month in January. Why? As Dr. Greene explains, “We all need people who can point us in the right direction.”
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