DANBURY - WestConn will showcase the many opportunities available for personal and academic enrichment through mentoring in a program Thursday, January 24, to celebrate National Mentoring Day, a commemoration originated by the Harvard Mentoring Project as part of National Mentoring Month."Different Facets of Mentoring at WCSU," sponsored by the Peer to Peer program, will feature informational displays on university and community mentoring programs, presented from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first floor of Warner Hall on the WestConn Midtown campus, 181 White St.
Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend; light refreshments will be served.
When Dianne Olsen began her job as assistant director of the Academic Advisement Center at Western Connecticut State University, she recognized she needed guidance herself - and she reached out to two veteran administrators as mentors whose advice and experience would set her on the right path.
Since then, Ms. Olsen has overseen the development of a successful WestConn program of student-to-student mentoring known as Peer to Peer (P2P), part of a growing diversity of university and Greater Danbury area programs that have engaged WestConn students, faculty and administrative staff in mentoring relationships.
In addition to P2P, mentoring programs offering displays at the event will include the Student-Alumni Mentoring Program, which connects WCSU alumni as mentors with students at WCSU; the Danbury Schools and Business Collaborative, which provides adult mentors from the Greater Danbury community for students in the Danbury school system; and Best Buddies, which partners WCSU students with Danbury area children with intellectual disabilities.
Also offering displays will be Western Connection, a program that provides WCSU student mentors for area high school students planning to attend WCSU; CHOICES, the WestConn alcohol and drug prevention program; Academic Resource Mentors, a WCSU residence hall-based program for academic tutoring and mentoring; and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters community mentoring program.
The event also will offer a wide-screen continuous showing of National Mentoring Day videos presented by public figures in politics, business and the arts.
Two computer stations will be set up for visitors to post messages of thanks, dedicated to individuals who have mentored them, and to read other thank-you postings.
Additional information on local, regional and national mentoring programs will be provided by the Governor's Prevention Partnership of the State of Connecticut.
Visitors also will receive a "Mentoring Makes a Difference" pen - a theme well suited to the event, Ms. Olsen noted.
"That's really what this day is all about, a day for reflection on all the people who have made a difference in our lives," she said. "When you think about the people who have mentored you during your life, you just want to do that for others."
Ms. Olsen observed that the P2P program, now in its third year at WestConn, has doubled in size to a current total of 51 student mentors and 44 students being mentored.
From its origins as a program exclusively for undeclared undergraduates served by the Academic Advisement Center, P2P now also encompasses mentored students who are majoring in a wide range of academic disciplines.
Participants in the program include both residential and commuting students, and nontraditional as well as traditional students.
Distribution of P2P promotional materials during Orientation Week has raised awareness of the program, and the center has succeeded in recruiting mentor volunteers through faculty recommendations and mail appeals to continuing students who have achieved high grade point averages.
Ms. Olsen noted that students who themselves faced challenges in adjusting to college life often are motivated to become mentors for others.
"More than half the mentors in our program are students who transferred to WestConn," she noted. "That suggests to me that they struggled, and now they want to help other students as a result of their struggles."
For students who receive mentoring, she said, "you can see the transformation this makes in their lives."
She recalled the experience of one student who had been mentored, who later wrote that "P2P totally changed his life. He had been a commuter student who just wasn't involved but, once he joined the program, his college life became different for him."
WestConn graduates also have the opportunity to share their professional experience with present students through the Student-Alumni Mentoring Program, coordinated by Director of Alumni Relations Tammy Hammershoy and Career Development Center Director Maureen Gernert in cooperation with the WCSU Alumni Association.
The program offers alumni a diverse range of options to structure productive mentoring relationships designed to afford students the benefits of their mentors' professional experience as they prepare for future careers.
In highlighting the diversity of opportunities available on campus and in the surrounding community, the January 24 event celebrating National Mentoring Day reveals WCSU's comprehensive approach to mentoring at all levels, Ms. Olsen observed.
"Every day, we have students mentoring their peers, administrators and faculty mentoring students, administrators mentoring administrators, and faculty mentoring faculty," she said.
"I believe that's the only way you can grow: mentoring gives you a good role model to follow."
Those seeking additional information may call Ms. Olsen at 203-837-8827 or e-mail olsend @wcsu.edu.