Positive feedback will give the mentoring project a follow-up
Helping first-year students at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs find their way in a rapidly changing university world because of Covid-19. That was the goal of the mentor project that has been running since this academic year. At the end of January, the first phase ends and in February new students will enter the Master's programmes, so the question was: what are the experiences and how do we continue?
The evaluation was done in different ways within the programme and by the central organisation: panel discussions, multiple choice and open questions among first-year students and questionnaires from the central organisation for first-year bachelor students, mentors, tutors and organisers.
The results are clear: the mentoring project has been a success!
Security Studies student: 'I found that the things we discussed, practical information about university as well as how we were doing in these corona times, were really well combined. The practical info really helped me with starting up, and the personal chats were just very nice.'
Providing information on practical matters and the questioning function was indicated as the most important theme by all students.
Many students express their appreciation for this initiative and in particular for the approachability of the mentors. Usually the mentors and the group use whatsapp to communicate.
The central student survey, completed by 144 1st year FGGA students, shows that over 90% of the bachelor students agree with the statement that student mentors are open to questions and around 80% of the respondents indicate that the mentors are easily accessible, well informed and create a good atmosphere. Of the 95 BASS students, 84 students indicated that their mentors were almost always easily accessible when they had questions.
The different FGGA programmes have a different approach to mentoring, ranging from a strict programme with set topics to a relatively free and flexible programme. The intake of the study programmes also varies: the Dutch VWO student who is going to study for the first time, the LUC student who is going to live on the AvB square with 400 fellow students, international students who have to continue studying at home, to MPS students who often already work and have to take a family into account. This makes it difficult to compare the results of the evaluations.
Most bachelor mentors were responsible for two mentor groups. Some mentor groups may work better than others, depending on how you started, what kind of people are in your group etc. "With one group, every meeting was lively and you ran out of time, and with the other group, you just sit and ask questions without getting answers." (from the evaluation of the Public Administration mentors) In block 2, a few BASS mentors had the idea that they had actually become superfluous.
Surprisingly, the student evaluations reveal other and more positive experiences. Some mentors are named and praised, to their own surprise.
Of the 95 BASS students, more than half have attended a meeting at least five times and a quarter more than seven times. 72 students indicate that they like being in the same mentor group during block 1 and 2. For Public Administration, this did not happen due to circumstances and that's also indicated as a problem in the evaluation.
Security Studies student: 'I really liked that in this way, we were provided with the opportunity to get to know a few people already, considering most of the students are not able to join every lecture. I also liked that by keeping the group the same for the 2 blocks, that with changing Skills Lab groups and having to meet even more people, we had at least the mentor group with people you already knew. So C., even though the group was never totally complete, thanks for all your effort and help! You really did a great job as mentor! :)'
There’s a great need for physical mentoring meetings and those are more appreciated than the online meetings.
A large group of students recommend to continue mentoring but are against making meetings obligatory. Some students just don't need it and don't make use of it. There are also students who say the meetings in the first block are sufficient, in block 2 fewer people come to the meetings, but the majority appreciates the offer and pleads for a structural implementation.
LUC student: 'I like that we were able to ask questions about the readings and that we got the chance to apply the theories to real life cases’
In the first news item about the mentorship, the social importance was already mentioned by Len-Marie Boele (18) from Alblasserdam. She is a first year student of Public Administration and is happy with the mentoring programme. 'Our group whatsapp is very lively. That’s nice when you spend a lot of time at home because of corona. In any case, it creates a good atmosphere.’
This is confirmed by remarks from the evaluation: 'Because of the mentor system, I immediately feel more 'at home', you have the feeling that you can fall back on someone' (Public Administration student).
Public Administration student: 'It's more the informal contact with mentor/tutor and fellow students that you otherwise miss in this day and age'. Security Studies student: 'I think it's a great system and especially for students not living in the Netherlands, it adds a level of the social aspect that they are missing out on.'
In the previous article, Megan Elijzen (21), a student mentor but also coordinator of the student mentors of Public Administration, could not reveal yet what was devised as an alternative activity instead of the discovery tour in Leiden plus a drink in small groups. Due to corona, it could not take place. The alternative activity became an online pub quiz night with non-alcoholic drinks package delivered at home.
This immediately shows how flexible and creative mentors have been in dealing with this social aspect. The type of events that were organised: ICT evenings, alumni and career information but also online pub quizzes, pizza dinners, book reviews and online film evenings, 1.5 metre distance meetings in the Haagse Bos, drinking coffee and walking in pairs, etc.
To quote from an LUC memo: "It would be a bit odd to simply stop something in February that is going so well".
The student mentors themselves also see the necessity of continuing the mentorship. In most cases, they react enthusiastically to the extension and are happy to continue the project.
The study programmes will shape the continuation of the project as follows.
- The bachelor Public Administration has chosen for a continuation in a stripped-down form. The student mentors will remain available as contact point for first year students and will receive a limited number of hours for this until July (16 hours).
- The bachelor LUC goes from 5 to 2 student mentors. The student mentors indicate that they want to focus on individual support.
- Master programmes have to deal with the February influx, so a new student group to support. An idea is to introduce a buddy-system between the September and February influx. In addition, they play a more supporting role in the programme and in the courses. These mentor appointments will be continued.
The first lesson learned is immediately put into practice with the (pre-)master students. In January, the incoming students are told where they can go with their questions. They also get the opportunity to make contact with the mentors, who are involved in the information sessions, among other things.
In February/March, we will look at how to proceed with the mentor project in the next academic year.
Now, there is more time to calmly consider with all parties whether a better form can be given to the student mentorship. Mentors should therefore definitely start earlier than September 1 so that they can already answer many questions from prospective students about studying at a university, ICT systems and support platforms. Many more ideas were collected in the evaluations, such as making a platform for exchanging experiences and cooperating with the different mentoring groups, the study associations and the ambassadors.
Text: Maya Vos and Lisette van Putten (also available for more information)
In mid-May, the crisis team 'Remote teaching & assessment' launched the idea of 'cohorting'. Objective: The mentor and tutor system aims to offer new students a small-scale, safe setting within the massiveness of the first year, in which they feel seen and heard. It also aims to introduce freshmen to the world of university, study and the city.
Facts and figures
Money was made available for the project through the adjustment of the quality agreements 2021. Faculty responsible for the set-up: Koen Caminada. Project leaders implementation: Lisette van Putten and Maya Vos. The number of mentors recruited was based on an estimate of the number of students and group size. Ba Security Studies: 9 mentors, Ba Public Administration: 10 mentors, Ba LUC: 5 mentors, Ma Crisis & Security Management: 4 mentors, Ma Public Sector Management: 2 mentors, Ma Public Administration: 3 mentors. Appointment from September 1 to February 1.