By Lindsey Ziliak
Professors at Indiana University Kokomo are meeting students for coffee or starting email exchanges to talk about graduation and life after college.
It’s part of a junior mentoring program launched this semester at the university.
“This is a chance for students to really talk about themselves ... who they are and what they want to be,” said IU Kokomo Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke.
It’s a program the students asked for.
About 835 students participated in an advising survey recently, and many of them said they wanted more interaction with faculty outside of the classroom.
Professors were more engaged with their students about five years ago, said Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences at IU Kokomo.
“We lost touch with students to some extent,” he said.
Chauret said it’s good to hear from them again and know the problems they’re facing.
As part of the program, professors in every school at the university reach out to all college juniors to set up a meeting.
Some of the meetings are one-on-one. Others are done in small groups.
Sometimes it’s over coffee or through email if students are especially busy, Sciame-Giesecke said.
Students talk about whatever is on their mind, whether that be internship experiences, questions about graduate school or barriers to graduation, she said.
“We’re helping students reach their degrees in a timely manner,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “This is an opportunity for one more person to provide a road map for them.”
Chauret said there are professional advisers who are good at helping students decide which classes they need to take and when.
The faculty mentors are there to help with the bigger issues, he said.
One of the questions his professors get a lot during the mentoring sessions is what students should do with their life if they don’t get into medical school.
They’re searching for a plan B, he said. Students need to know what else they can do with their degrees.
“Students can have a very fulfilling career, even if they don’t get into medical school,” Chauret said. “Sometimes they don’t see that.”
Professors are getting good feedback from students about the new program.
Chauret said some students already have set up additional appointments with faculty members, which is how the program should work.
“Mentoring can’t be done in just one meeting,” he said.
Chauret admitted that professors haven’t reached every junior in the School of Sciences, but they’re working on it.
The university will assess the program in January to see where improvements can be made and to figure out how to reach the students they miss this semester.
“It will take a few semesters to create a culture here,” Chauret said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”