New mentoring program provides transfer support for STEM students

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a professor talks to two students by a computerMOSES LAKE- A new program on campus is helping prepare current STEM students for life after Big Bend Community College.

The STEM Peer-Mentoring program kicked off last fall. The program connects current students who have an interest in a science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) discipline with a recent Big Bend graduate who is working on a STEM degree at a four-year college or university.

Mentors provide hands-on, personalized help for current students as they get ready to go through the same transfer process.

There are six mentors and about 30 active BBCC student mentees participating in the program. They ‘meet’ with each other about every other week via video chat.

What they talk about is up to both the mentor and the mentee, and conversations can cover everything from academic preparedness, time management and preparing for exams to developing a sense of belonging on a new campus, said STEM advising specialist Anne Ghinazzi.

“Students are paired with a mentor who shares an academic interest along with personal background or experience,” she said. “We tried to develop an approach where students feel supported so they can build that commitment to a STEM major, so it is customized to what an individual students’ needs are.”

Ghinazzi said they purposely developed the program to have such a strong focus on mentoring relationships.

“Our goal is to pull back the curtain and share personal experiences so students aren’t just learning a process, they’re learning about successes their mentors have had, and also challenges and obstacles their mentors have overcome so they can either avoid them or be able to persist through them,” she said.

Recent BBCC graduate Luis Camacho Plascencia is one of the program’s mentors. He is currently a civil engineering major at St. Martins University and has been working with four student mentees since the fall.

He knows firsthand the importance of having support and guidance during the transfer process, which is why he decided to become a mentor through the program. If it wasn’t for his older sister who had already made the transfer from Big Bend to a four-year university, the process would’ve been even more daunting, he said.

“I was fortunate to know what I wanted to do and that my sister had laid a foundation for me to follow in her footsteps,” said Plascencia. “A lot of students don’t have that, so I am willing to do whatever I can to help them and to give them a few things to do or keep in mind that would help.”

The STEM Peer-Mentoring program has also provided students with the opportunity to visit some of the potential colleges they could end up attending.

“We have had a strong focus this year on taking students to campuses across the state to help prepare them to make that decision about where they want to matriculate to,” said Ghinazzi.

So far students have visited Washington State University, Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University. This spring, they’ll visit University of Washington and Western Washington University.

The trips are all STEM focused, and so students spend a lot of time meeting with STEM faculty and advisors and touring STEM classrooms and labs. And since they visit campuses where their mentors are currently, they sometimes get a chance to visit with their mentors’ classmates.

Students also eat lunch at the college’s cafeteria and spend time exploring their student union buildings.

“It really helps to create a bridge between BBCC and a bachelor’s degree,” said Ghinazzi. “It helps show what it might be like to be a student on a different campus because they can vary by size and location.”

The program also has a scholarship component to alleviate the financial burden of paying for college. And because mentors and mentees have to video chat, the program has purchased laptops with webcams for students to check out for the full academic year.

 

For more information about the STEM Peer-Mentoring program, contact Anne Ghinazzi at anneg@bigbend.edu.

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