Veteran advice


“It’s nice to hear that people do struggle,” said College third-year Christina Socias at last night’s Collegiate Mentoring Program (CMP) welcome dinner, “that not everything is perfect. It makes you feel like you’re OK.” Socias is a returning participant in CMP, a diversity-mentoring program that pairs undergraduates with graduate and professional-school students. Mentors and mentees meet at least once a week, said College senior adviser Elise LaRose, CMP’s founder and director, to talk, watch movies, catch a concert—or, in one case, visit a cadaver lab, which inspired that mentee to drop his pre-med aspirations. The program’s goal, LaRose told the students clustered around tables in Ida Noyes’s first-floor library, is “to help you have the most satisfying and successful experience possible—as you define success.”

When LaRose started the program in February 2003, she said later, she imagined it would be “more centralized,” with lots of group activities. But she found that students mainly wanted “to do their own thing,” spending one-on-one time with their mentors. For the most part, she said, “it’s really clear that students love their mentors.” In a Spring 2004 survey of 62 mentees, only four disliked their mentors, and none had approached LaRose to change their assignments. About 60 to 80 undergraduates participate in the program—the number fluctuates as students join and drop out during the year—and interest usually spikes after winter break, when fall-quarter grades have come in and, LaRose said, “the honeymoon is over.” Mentors typically work with two to four mentees and make $15 an hour. She pays them because “graduate students are generally poor,” she said, and as an incentive to attract the best grad students. Though the program is advertised as a “diversity-mentoring program,” anyone can sign up.

“This is from the outside, because I didn’t go to undergrad here, but from what I hear, [Chicago] can be an intense, depressive environment,” said third-year law student Linda Boachie, who mentored two students last year. “It’s good to talk things over with someone a little bit older who’s not a parent or teacher.” That’s what attracted first-year Sana Suh to the dinner. “I’m uncertain about what I’m going to do for the next four years,” Suh said, “and beyond that I want someone to talk to about how to manage my time and how to get into grad school” with someone “who’s actually been through the school.”

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: Mentors and mentees eat in Ida Noyes.

October 7, 2005