The Advantage of Albion—Reinstated mentoring program teaches first-years about advantage

First-year students now have more to learn than ever at Albion College with an all-new student mentoring program and updated technology.

The Albion Advantage—the college’s promise to provide post-graduate assistance starting with the graduating class of 2014—began during the fall 2010 semester.  One of the first steps  has been to integrate the First Year Experience (FYE) program with the advantage by reinstituting the college’s student mentoring program, which ended in 2008, said Drew Dunham, associate dean of Academic Affairs and Registrar.

Now called the Student Mentor Albion Advantage Resource Team (SMAART), the mentoring program pairs each first year-experience seminar group with an upperclassmen student mentor.

“(The mentoring program) seemed like a really good place for starting the first years on this four-year process,” Dunham said. “We brought (the student mentors) back into the program to not only recapture some of the academic portions of the transitional pieces that we had been doing with first-year students, but to help the students understand the Albion Advantage.”

Justin DeHondt, Berkeley junior, is one of 27 SMARTees. As a SMARTee, he meets with his twelve students weekly and besides educating them on the Albion Advantage, guides them through topics from technology training to college social life.

“What they tried to drill into our heads is that we’re adding experiential learning to the academic training that we already do here,” DeHondt said. “The students are like, ‘I guess that’s kind of cool’ (when we tell them about the advantage). They’ve never had Albion when we didn’t know about it. For them, it’s just like the norm that this is there.”

Lindy Williams, Sylvania, Ohio first-year, said that she has enjoyed her first weeks of mentor sessions from the student perspective.

“My FYE group is my closest knit group of friends so it helps with networking,” Williams said. “Even though there is college level work in the course, there is continual support and feedback in how to be comfortable in campus with college level courses.”

A new online digital portfolio called My Albion Portfolio (MAP) has also been added to teach students about social networking and provide a place to reflect on career learning experiences. Similar to Facebook or other social media sites, MAP offers a user profile that is much more user-friendly than Albion’s previous digital portfolio, according to Dunham.

“This product that we have and what we’re using—the MAP system that we’re using has tabs already there labeled with Academic Goals and Personal Goals,” Dunham said. “It has a (space for blogging). The other neat feature is that unlike the other portfolio, where it was public to everybody, the MAP program allows students to create different views, so they can pick and chose the components views of their map and send (a different view to a potential employer or friend).”

Academic advisors will also use the MAP program to track their advisees’ academic and professional progress and give suggestions and make comments accordingly, Dunham said.

This article is the second of three in a series about the Albion Advantage.

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