Universiteit Leiden

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A warm welcome to first-years: working with one and a halve meters

Everything is different this year because of the corona measures; introduction weeks, student life and education. In order to give new students a proper and warm welcome, a lot of work has been done to create the frameworks for a mentor programme. The working group 'Tutoring and Cohorting' has prepared everything to enable this. We asked Marion Boers, chairman of the working group and university lecturer in Art History, how this came about.

Marion Boers

How did you organise the mentor programme?

‘In order to welcome the new students, small groups have been formed in which the first-year students get to know the university, the faculty and their study programme, both on campus and online. Each group has a student mentor and a teacher tutor who supervise the first-year students. Recruiting the student mentors went very smoothly. It's really heart-warming to see that students are so involved and eager to help the new first-year students in the coming period.’

‘Per study programme, about fourteen (online) meetings will take place with the new students and the student mentors. During these meetings, the first-year students receive guidance, the opportunity to ask questions, meet their fellow students and get to know the different sides of the faculty and the academic world. We also organise seminars on how to write a paper and how to prepare for exams. The student mentors are prepared for these tasks by the Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching (ICLON).’

‘Aurelie van 't Slot is the contact person and secretary of the working group. Marion: 'It's very nice that I can count on Aurelie. As secretary she is control. Without her, so much would have never been achieved. She wrote the concept for the mentorship guide and also wrote numerous pieces that informed the study programmes about all of the facets of mentoring and tutoring, but she also made an important contribution by making contact with her large network within the university.'

How are the student mentors supervised?

‘Beforehand, we informed the programme directors, coordinators of studies and mentors about the purpose of the mentorship. In the learning management system Brightspace you can find a lot of material and a video library has been created in which the necessary information has been collected that the student mentors can consult. Chat groups will also be created, in which student mentors will be in contact with each other and where they can talk about their experiences. This way we can see if everything is going well and if they need any help. We don't want the teachers to get saddled up with everything at the last minute.’

‘Each student mentor is supervised by a teacher tutor throughout the semester. This tutor can be consulted by the student mentor during the preparation of the mentor meetings and for the alignment of education with the mentor programme. The teacher tutors are also present at some mentor meetings, for example when study skills are discussed. The presence of the teacher tutor helps the new students to build a bond with the study programme.’

What have your days been like these past few weeks?

‘I am also a lecturer. That experience has prepared me well for my chairing role in this working group. I have been working at Leiden University since 1986, at first as a lecturer in Dutch language and culture and the past ten years at the Art History study programme. There I teach, for example, lectures on iconography and on the art market in the Netherlands from 1450 to 1800. So I'm also busy preparing for both online education and education on campus. In addition, I meet with the working group twice a week.'

‘As a working group we worked hard and held serious meetings from home and through Teams.  Occasionally, cats of members of the working group also participated. When the meetings lasted too long and there was not enough petting, they would often lie down on the keyboard. Attention guaranteed!’

What are you most proud of?

We are very proud of the fact that so much has been achieved within a very short period of time with the cooperation of so many people from different parts of the faculty. Mentors have been recruited, programmes have been made for Bachelor's and Master's students, there is a handy guide for mentors, soon a Brightspace page will be available with all the information about the mentorship, and the ICLON and the faculty have helped with the mentor training.'

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