Created by Katrina Snyder, Peer Mentor Training and Advising (TAC) Member, 2011-12; Revised by Welby Seely, Peer Mentor Training and Advising (TAC) Co-Chair, 2010-12
Qualities of a Peer Mentor
Mentoring needs to be more than “just another job” in order for it to be successful. Certain qualities are needed to help and successfully communicate with students: proactivity, flexibility, enthusiasm, leadership, and professionalism. These are values required of a STEM employee.
Being More than Just a Tutor
Signing up for a peer mentor does not guarantee that a student will pass a class. As a mentor, the focus is not on teaching course material, but on fostering good study habits and learning techniques. The goal is to prepare students not only for their assigned classes, but for current and future challenges. By developing life skills, students become ready to be successful for their college careers and beyond.
Students often do not seek out help when they need it. A good mentor must be proactive. If a student is slow to respond, send reminders; following up with phone calls demonstrates commitment and sincerity. Coming prepared to meetings and adjusting them to meet students’ needs, meeting in places conducive to study, and keeping track of and managing events in a calendar are all examples of proactivity.
In order to accommodate and serve as many students as is possible, a mentor must be flexible both in schedule and in mind. Some students can only meet once or twice a week. Being able to reasonably accommodate a variety of students with different schedules and learning styles is necessary. Moreover, a mentor needs to recognize that students have different needs – some study techniques may work better for some than others. Flexibility is critical to effective mentoring.
Part of the job of a peer mentor is to help students become enthusiastic about school and learning, and to help to develop a positive attitude toward challenges. Enthusiasm is infectious: a mentor must show enjoyment and a positive attitude while mentoring. That enthusiasm is likely to spread to the student.
Leading by Example
A mentor should have goals for the student, but no solid expectations. Some STEM participants are only a short step away from high school and may not be completely ready to begin living on their own. Expecting a student to have an instantaneous transformation from the maturity of a high school student to that of a college student is unrealistic. It is up to the mentor to set the example and demonstrate how to be a successful college student.
Being a STEM peer mentor is more than just helping out students: a mentor’s professional cultivation is also important. A STEM peer mentor must be able to communicate politely and respectfully with the STEM Director and other STEM employees, maintain accurate STEM documentation, and attend several STEM meetings every semester. STEM provides mentors with valuable experience working and behaving professionally, at times simulating real-life environments, in order to prepare them for their work environments after college.