Mentorship program exceeds professor’s expectations

By University Communications
January 4, 2016
From left to right, Assistant Professor Amanda Barnett meets with student mentor Molly Harvey and mentee Breann Johnson. The students are majoring in human development and family studies.

Photo: See caption at the end of the news story

University of Wisconsin-Stout Assistant Professor Amanda Barnett is seeing expected and unexpected benefits from a mentorship program.

The program, in its third year, involves students majoring in human development and family studies with the goal of building the HDFS community.

“Students report positive experiences with their mentors and that the program helps incoming HDFS students feel like they belong,” she said.

The mentees are freshmen, transfer students or students who have changed majors.

“Also, retention rates have been higher since our HDFS program has focused on efforts to create community amongst our students,” Barnett said.

Students in Barnett’s HDFS 101 course are required to participate in the program and are matched with someone more seasoned, such as a junior or senior, to help navigate the rigors of college life and the academic program, Barnett said. The advanced students, who have demonstrated positive leadership skills, are nominated by HDFS faculty and are then invited to participate, she said.

This fall, 60 students in the 101 course were matched with 26 advanced students, meaning most but not all of them shared a mentor. Barnett waited until almost halfway through the semester before having the mentors and mentees meet.

“This allowed HDFS 101 students to have time to learn more about the program so that they could ask more informed questions of their mentors and better understand what their mentors were talking about when referring to the program,” she said.

Mentor and mentee benefit

Breann Johnson, from Gillett, who was mentored by Molly Harvey, a senior from Cottage Grove, is benefiting from the program. “It has helped me to better mentally prepare for some of the upcoming courses as well as get a better insight at the content and future projects we will be covering,” Johnson said.

“I have become more excited for my major and I have appreciated the opportunity to connect with a student who has more experience and is further along in the program,” she said.  

Johnson chose UW-Stout because of its emphasis on hands-on learning and for its human development and family studies program. “They have an excellent program and a passion for serving people well,” she said.

Harvey, who hopes to find a job working with at-risk youth in Madison after graduation, thinks the mentorship program is a great idea and hopes that it will continue.

“I loved participating in the mentorship program,” she said. “It's been very interesting to be able to share my experiences of the HDFS program and any tips and skills I have learned,” said Harvey, who mentored two students.

Although Harvey wasn’t part of the mentorship program as a freshman, she was fortunate to meet upperclassmen who “were very influential and important to my UW-Stout experience,” she said.

 “They helped develop a lot of my leadership skills and really helped develop my confidence. I think it is great to keep connecting individuals who are new to the program with people who are graduating out of it,” Harvey said.

An unplanned and unanticipated outcome of the mentorship program has been the extent of the pride that the mentors feel, Barnett said.

“They excel at practicing their leadership skills and take pride in the hard work they’ve completed to get them to where they are. They seem to really enjoy passing this wisdom onto our new HDFS 101 students,” she said.

The formal mentor and mentee relationship is complete at the end of the semester, although students can choose to maintain contact after the course, Barnett said.

HDFS 101 is offered every semester, and the mentorship program is part of every class. The pairs are required to meet only once in class during the semester but are encouraged to meet outside of class time if they choose. “We recognize that students have busy lives and a wide range of responsibilities,” she said.

For more information on the degree, refer to human development and family studies


Photo caption

From left to right, Assistant Professor Amanda Barnett meets with student mentor Molly Harvey and mentee Breann Johnson. The students are majoring in human development and family studies.