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Clemmer College to launch ‘360-degree’ mentor program for students of color

JOHNSON CITY — A new student mentoring initiative that pairs students of color with an upperclassman mentor will launch this fall in the Clemmer College at East Tennessee State University.
 
The program, called STRIVE (Students Teaching and Representing Inclusive Values and Excellence), will be available to all students of color in the Clemmer College. The program will match freshmen with sophomore, junior or senior students of color who will serve as a mentor for the next year. After that year, mentees will become mentors to the next class of students, bringing the program full circle.
 
“The freshman year is certainly a time of transition for students as they develop a sense of belonging, and this can be especially challenging for students of color,” said Jessie Wang, director of student success in the Clemmer College. “We know that if we can retain students from the freshman to sophomore year, they will be better poised to persist to graduation.”
 
“Pairing them with a mentor who is also a person of color will help them build an important connection with someone who may have had similar experiences and learned how to navigate them,” she added. Wang said the Clemmer College will spend this semester recruiting upperclassmen to serve as mentors and then provide trainings and dialogues on being an effective mentor.
 
“Our mentors may be asked for advice on which classes to take, but we also want them to feel comfortable engaging in deeper conversations, such as how to ‘take up space’ as a person of color in a predominantly white classroom,” she said.
 
A unique aspect to this program is that STRIVE students will then take what they learn and teach ETSU faculty, staff, and students on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, reversing the role of learner and teacher. “We have just as much to learn from our students as they have to learn from us, especially on this topic,” Wang said.
 
Wang added that the goal is to empower students to speak up on topics of equity and inclusion and to play an active role in teaching cultural competency skills to others, not just here, but throughout their career and life. The program aims to provide an extra foundation of support to students of color, but also “to move our community forward together,” she noted.
 
STRIVE will be open to all students of color who will be freshmen in degree programs in the Clemmer College this fall. For more information about participating in STRIVE, contact Wang at wangjk@etsu.edu.