Transfer Mentoring Program
Some of you may recognize who I am through the LAUNCH presentations that were given by me and several Ambassadors for the Career Center. Those who are unfamiliar with those presentations, LAUNCH is a professional development series for undergraduate students to guide them in critiquing their resumes, cover letters, creating a personal brand for themselves and preparing them for interviews and career fairs. I am not here to promote the Career Center or provide details on topics the Ambassadors present to our colleagues. I am here to discuss a way to increase personal development and leadership skills to undergrad students.
My name is Precious Bass and I am currently a junior studying English with a concentration of language, writing and rhetoric. North Carolina State University has treated me very well since I’ve been present, but like any other student, I’ve had my obstacles. In spring 2014, I transferred from North Carolina Central University with a 3.5 GPA. I attended Central for two and a half years before deciding that I wanted to receive a better education and wanting to be a part of a school that cared for their students and mentored them through their academics. Before receiving my acceptance letter from State, I reached out to my soon-to-be academic counselor and discussed with her the issues I came across while I was a student at Central.
I told her that before attending Central, I would always here about how Central had such a great law and graduate program. Not realizing that their undergraduate program had nothing to do with their law and graduate school. Now this may seem like a random question, but I promise I have a purpose behind this. How many of you found yourself going on a wild goose chase when trying to find something very specific? I know this has happened to a lot of parents, especially since it’s the holidays and you all are trying to find that perfect toy for your eight year old son or daughter. Well, let me tell you about the one my adviser sent me on one day. This is the same story I shared with my soon-to-be academic counselor.
One day in one of our meetings, I expressed to her my desire to have classes that incorporated more hands-on activities as opposed to lectures for two hours. Fortunate for me, well at least I thought that I was, she suggested someone who works in downtown Durham that I could potentially work with instead of having those classes. She never told me her job title, but she emphasized heavily that this is something that I would be interested in. She gave me her name, contact information and the address on where she was located. She told me that she would contact her to inform her that she was sending a student her way and to expect to see me within the next few days. With my excitement and trust in the information that she provided me, I made it a top priority to go meet with her the next day. I put the address in my GPS and oddly Siri said to me that I would have to park and walk to my location. I never heard that one before, but I went with the flow and did as Siri demanded. When I arrived at what I thought was the location, I told the receptionist my name and who I wanted to speak with. She looked at me confused and stated that nobody by that name worked in the building with her. Trying to gather my thoughts, I walked away and asked Siri some questions, since Siri seems to know everything. Of course, she was able to provide me with the job title of the woman I was searching for. I went back to receptionist desk and stated that she worked as a mentor for juveniles. There was a slight change of response this time, but not much. She mentioned that I was in the wrong building and gave me the address to the building on where I was supposed to go. I blamed Siri for making me look like a fool and demanding me to park and “walk” to my location.
Since this other building was around the corner, I decided to walk there; and if you’ve ever been to downtown Durham, then you know it is NOT big at all. Siri said it was a two minute walk. Not too bad. It was a beautiful day, so I did not mind enjoying the weather a little bit more. I finally arrived at what I thought was the correct building, but it wasn’t. Everything was functioning properly (lights, elevator, etc.), at least I thought it was, but there were signs all over the wall within an inch of each other that stated “THIS LOCATION HAS MOVED” and provided the address and phone number to where I can contact someone. Guess what I did? I called the number and it was DISCONNECTED. At this point, I am still attempting to think positive about this situation. Maybe they just moved a few days ago and they are still in the process of getting their phones connected, right? Although the signs didn’t look freshly printed, the best thing for me to do was continue to stay with a positive attitude. With my little patience you would think that I would have given up right then and there. BUT I DIDN’T! I put the address in my GPS and Siri told me it would be a 12 minute walk and a 4 minute drive. I will admit that my patience level did go down a little, but my confidence was still standing strong. This time, I decided to drive. Turning the corner, Siri says “Your destination is on your right.” I look to my right and guess what I see? NOTHING! NOT A DAMN THING! The only thing that was in my presence was dirt. I instantly gave up! The only thing I kept repeating to myself on my way home, filled with anger, was THIS IS BULLSHIT! It was then, that I realized that I was sick of living in Durham and sick of dealing with the nonsense from Central’s staff.
After my counselor heard this story she stressed the fact that this would not happen to me as a student at State. She told me that there were big companies that died to have State students become a part of their team. For the first time in over a year I felt a sense of relief.
My academic counselor actually cared about my dream to become a lawyer. She gave me direction on what my concentration should be for my major. She gave me a list of classes that would benefit me for the remainder of my time being in college. She gave me names of law firms where I could do internships. None the less, she gave me support; the support that I have been craving for two and a half years. After hearing this, you can only imagine my reaction when I finally received my acceptance letter!
I was one of those lucky students where all of my credits transferred with me, but it was very unfortunate that my 3.5 GPA did not. I was confused as to why this was the case. When I spoke to my new counselor, he stated, “Since it’s from another university they don’t trust their education level; so you have to start over.” Of course, I still didn’t understand why this was the case, so he gave me a Transfer-101 class for dummies in less than 3 minutes. I finally understood, but I didn’t agree with it. It was clear in the lesson that this was something that I couldn’t ever possibly change.
This of course didn’t just happen to me at State, this has happened to every student that has transferred. This is one of the few reasons that has caused me to be on academic probation my first semester at State. Through all of the excitement, I didn’t stop to think that the support I received from my academic counselor was to only get me to see the classes that would benefit me for my career as opposed to helping me get through those classes she suggested.
I would like for our undergrad students who are currently serving as Ambassadors for their departments and students that are involved in extracurricular activities to serve as mentors to transfer students. Here is why…
As of October 15, 2013, there are 24,536 undergrad students enrolled at State (part-time and full-time). How many of those students are transfer students? Great question, 1,215. What about incoming freshman? Also great question, 4,167 students are new to college. It is safe to say there was more freshman than transfers last year.
Let’s take a look at another public university that is also in a big city, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. They have their students serve as mentors to those who have had a difficult time their previous semester. During the summer, my best friend, Yadi, asked me if I was sent anything in the mail to complete a one credit course for being on academic probation and assigned a mentor. I looked at her in relief and denied. I thought to myself, “I’m so glad I don’t have to take a course! That one credit would have been a waste of my time.” But I am getting too ahead of myself. You are probably asking, “Who is this girl named Yadi and what does she have to do with anything?” Well, I’m about to tell you.
I met Yadi my sophomore year at Central and becoming friends with her was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. She made me think about the person that I wanted to be in High School. She was extremely socially active and had a desire to meet new people. Unlike me, I have been working since I learned how to walk. I had very little aspiration to get out of my comfort zone to meet new people that were within the same age group. I didn’t dwell on the person that I could have been if I met her before college. I focused on becoming that socially and outgoing person that she was. She is one of the reasons why I decided to step out of character and apply to become an Ambassador. Our different personalities are not that important. What is important is the fact that we both had decided to transfer schools the same year, unexpectedly. Although our personalities are diverse, our thought process happens to work the same. Our options and reasons for the schools we wanted to transfer to were the same. UNCC vs. NCSU. For me, UNCC was too close to home and I wanted to continue to live an independent lifestyle that I have been living since I left for college. For Yadi, NCSU was too close to home and she wanted to challenge her independent lifestyle by distancing herself from home.
Going back to Yadi and I’s conversation, I didn’t think it was going to stick with me the next couple of days. From that day forward, I checked the mail every day to see if I received anything in regards to me being on academic probation. I never received anything; then, I really began to question. Not necessarily wanting to take an additional course, obviously, but really wanting to know why I wasn’t provided with a mentor. This is when I became really engaged in my thoughts and did some additional research on UNC Charlotte and compared some numbers to NC State.
UNC Charlotte has 22,216 undergraduate students enrolled (part-time and full-time). How many are transfer students? Great question, 2,794. What about incoming freshman? Also great question, 3,319 students are new to college. With that being said, it is safe to say that they have more incoming freshman than transfers this year.
In comparison to State, we have approximately 2,000 more students as a whole with less than 1,000 of them being freshman; but…guess how many more transfers they received? UNC Charlotte has approximately 1,500 more transfers than we did. Keep in mind, these numbers could potentially be off by some because the information that I found from NC State was from last year and the information that I found from UNC Charlotte was based off of their current stats. Here’s the thing, I don’t want you to get too focused on the numbers, but defiantly keep them in the back of your head as a reference.
Transfer students come to N.C. State to receive a great education. They won’t be able to receive that if they don’t have the guidance from a peer to support them. They won’t be able to get acclimated in the type of education we’re offering. Because of this we are allowing these students to feel discouraged, left out and unappreciated. How do I know this? That is how I felt after my first semester. I began second guessing myself and questioned if I was as smart as what I thought I was or if I made the right choice in choosing State. I came here for the education and the great opportunities that State offers, but what are those opportunities going to do for myself or anyone else if there aren’t good grades where we are attending?
The same summer that I met with my academic counselor, I took a tour with other incoming students of the campus. As many of you know the ones that instruct the tour are actual students as opposed to staff members. In one of my conversations with her, I mentioned the fact that I would be transferring in from another university. Her exact words were, “Since you’re coming from another university, this would be an easy transition for you.” Boy do I wish I remembered her name! As counselors and student leaders, you can’t assume that we are just fine because we came from another college, whether it was a community college or another university.
I could talk your head off about all my experiences and challenges I’ve had my first semester here, but I won’t. I would like to talk about one of my colleagues. As I promised, her name will not be mentioned just in case she felt uncomfortable with many people knowing about how extremely difficult it was for her to get adjusted. I met her once and ever since then we have communicated via email. We interacted with each other during a required mock interview for a class that she had with one of my career counselors. During the process, I only asked her questions based off of the career she was pursuing, which was a High School English teacher. I didn’t get to know her more until after she answered the necessary questions.
She started at Wake Tech in 2009 immediately after she graduated High School. At that time, she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life as far as a career, so she felt like going to a community college would be the best thing for her to do after graduation. The university life seemed a bit much and overwhelming for her. She completed her two year degree by December 2011 and came to State the summer of 2012. She described to me that Wake Tech’s campus was a lot like a high school campus. She could walk from one end to the other in less than eight minutes and still make it to class on time. Much of her time there felt as if it was a continuation of high school, like “High School 2.0”; as she would call it. She recalled being enrolled in an English 101 class and by the end of the drop date, there were only eight students. In that same class, there were only three different people her age (eighteen at the time) and the rest were in their 30s going back to school for something. In her political science class, to her left there was a 28 year old woman who was working full-time while being enrolled as a student and on her right was a 38 year old man who was going back for another degree. Let’s skip ahead to her time since she has been attending State. Her Spanish class had 220 students, her 200-level English class had 40 students and her History class had 45 students. When she made her schedule for the first time, she had no idea where any of her classes were. Which is normal, but here’s the thing…when she asked someone if they knew where Tompkins Hall was, they responded and said “That’s on main campus,” as if she’s supposed to know what “main campus” is. She remembers her first midterm when her teacher told the class to bring a blue book. She thought to herself, “Where the hell do I buy a blue book?” She remembers asking one of her professors when was the final exam was taking place? He or she responded that it was posted online. She automatically thought that it would be on the Moodle page, but she couldn’t find any information in regards to the final. A few days later, she spoke to one of her classmates and asked them where was the schedule posted on Moodle and he or she told her it was on NCSU’s website. He or she was more of a help, then the professor.
Aside from the campus being so HUGE and not knowing where anything was, she wanted to get involved in things on campus, but had no clue how or where to find the information. She didn’t know about the valuable tools on campus, like the different honors programs, ePack, or the Career Development Center. All of which she would have used way before her senior year. She felt as if no one wanted to help her and she had no friends to turn to. It’s the little things that would help us if it came from another peer.
At the moment, you know exactly who I am, what I do (partially as a student), why I decided to come to NC State, why I would like to start this program, why I am extremely motivated to incorporate this program and how other college students have influenced me in creating this program. Two things you don’t know is what this mentoring program would actually consist of and how it will increase personal development and leadership skills.
Obviously with this program, those who are mentors will be able to learn something new about themselves through their mentee. No one is perfect in this world, so when you serve as a higher authority figure to someone else, there is always a chance that there is something new that you never realized about yourself. It can be a positive or negative aspect, but knowing how to use those skills to benefit you in the future is what’s best. The leadership skills will come with the personal development. You can’t become a better leader unless you find ways to improve things internally. As stated before, no one is perfect in this world, so there is always something that you can change about yourself for the better, never for the worse. The personal development and leadership skills will ideally be the hardest thing because people are afraid to change who they are. That’s just the society we live in today. They think that if they are already someone who holds control, then they don’t have to change who they are or people have to follow the way they do things because they think it’s the right way to go. Either my way or the highway, right? No! The mentors will have to be open for change because in all reality, all of their mentees will not respond the same way to advice or direction that they are providing.
If this wasn’t clear before, I want to make sure that it is clear now. This is not a completely new program that I would like to start from scratch. This is a program that I would like to include within organizations that are already established such as: Ambassadors for majors, fraternities, sororities and any other one that has the students serve as leaders. These students will continue to meet all of their regular requirements. The only thing that I am asking is for each student to at least take on two or three transfers and spend an hour with each of them a week. It could be to help them with their time management, show them around campus or even have lunch. Three hours a week for one person could make a large impact on three people’s lives.
I will leave you with this, think back to those numbers that I provided with you earlier. Have you all ever stopped to question why there is a mentoring program to help direct the freshman and not one to help direct us? If we can have a program for over four thousand students, why can’t we incorporate something for over one thousand? Why not use the same students that are mentoring the incoming freshman, to guide us on how the student life is at State; academically and socially? Why not have the fraternities, sororities, Ambassadors and other organizations, which already hold leadership positions, mentor us? Think of the difference you can make in one of our lives.