Pilot program hopes to synchronously gather first-years with veteran students during fall semester
Lewis & Clark’s New Student Orientation (NSO) program has expanded, introducing a mentoring program intended to create more connections, structure and support for students arriving at LC.
Like NSO groups, New Student Peer Mentors (NSPMs) will meet with a handful of students at the beginning of the term. They will continue to meet with their group regularly throughout the first semester. These cohorts will consist of 15 to 25 students. Mentors are expected to meet with their mentees individually at least twice in the first semester and are expected to contact each group member once a month. The program outlines the unique opportunity to make a big difference for new students.
“NSPMs are exemplary Lewis & Clark students who serve as ambassadors to the College and role models to incoming students,” the NSO website informs. Additionally, mentors will receive a leadership award of $1,180 for their work from August through the end of the fall semester.
As director of first-year experience, Johnathon Manz’s role is to build a program with multiple initiatives to foster new student involvement in the LC community.
“The idea is to help students get connected, whether that’s finding extracurricular involvement, connecting with new peers, or showing where to get tutoring help,” Manz said.
The goal of expanding NSO is to improve retention rate, assist students in their search for community LC, provide helpful information from a student’s perspective and make the transition to college easier overall. “The impetus for this program came from President Robin Holmes-Sullivan last year when she served as vice president,” Manz said.
LC alumnus and director of NSO Franchesca Spann was the student director for NSO and after graduating in 2020, she was appointed as head of the program. She also works within Campus Living.
“We heard feedback from students, especially in the last few years with COVID, that there is so much content in NSO, and we jam it in, and then it suddenly stops,” Spann said. “They’re kinda unleashed into the rest of college without a lot of support.”
Many students find their first communities at LC through the New Student Trip (NST). The small NSO groups will serve the same purpose, but with more continual support.
“The whole goal of it being a peer mentorship program is that there are so many staff and faculty who work at the college, but they’re adults and they’re not going through it the same way other students are,” Spann said.
Especially during COVID times, she elaborated, real-world relatability and peer mentorship will benefit many students.
Another role of an NSPM is to help newcomers navigate Portland.
“It can be challenging to get to know Portland, especially if you’re not familiar with public transportation, so the peer mentor is going to help their group use public transportation, get downtown or to a neighborhood and engage students with their surroundings,” Manz said.
Peer mentors may choose to take their group to a sports game, an art exhibition or another type of off-campus experience of their choosing. The NSPM’s responsibilities are fully outlined on the NSO website.
Applications to become a peer mentor are closed for the fall semester, but NSO is looking for a diverse group of mentors with different skill sets, ways of interacting and learning styles.
“There’s a perception that an orientation leader must be really enthusiastic, extroverted and a high energy person, but I’m really interested in finding students who want to be that support,” Spann said. “I’ve been trying to focus on having a range of personality types, backgrounds, special interests and gender identities that reflects the student body.”
The application process consists of a written application as well as a group meeting to assess how mentors interact with others.
“Our screening process is to provide a sample of what it might look like to be in this position,” Manz said. “We will have some scenarios where we talk through what a first year may experience and how a peer mentor might respond to that.”
The expansion of the role of NSO leader comes with more responsibilities, but also financial benefits for those who become mentors.