GradSTAR: OAAA Mentoring Program
The Faculty-Student Mentoring Program was launched in September 1995. It is a part of the services that the Office of African-American Affairs offers to help students of color achieve intellectual and personal success at the University of Virginia. In 2015, the program was expanded to engage the University’s administrators and professional staff as mentors. Through these one-on-one relationships, students look forward to intellectual stimulation, academic support, career guidance, and friendship. Mentors also benefit from their shared experiences with students. The goal is to enhance the learning community for everyone at the University of Virginia.
Applications are available during fall semester for University participants and students. Orientation sessions are offered to prospective mentors and student applicants before they are matched one-to-one, on the basis of their mutual interests and professional goals. Then, participants are sent a confirmation that provides the mentor and student with each other's name and contact information. Participants commit to communicate regularly, including meeting one-on-one throughout the semesters and attending OAAA-sponsored mentoring events that are held throughout the year. Dean Thomas meets and communicates with participants each semester to promote a positive experience for everyone.
- How do I apply?
University participants (new and returning) should complete an on-line application and attend one orientation session before the first mentoring event.
- How often shall mentor and student meet?
We encourage mentors and students to keep in touch and meet in person at least once a month. The meetings can be centered on academics, shared research, or informal conversations, depending on the pair. Students are required to attend at least two additional meetings each semester with Dean Thomas. Failure to attend and/or communicate in a timely manner with her can result in being dropped from the program (and not being placed in future semesters). Mentors also meet mid-year with Dean Thomas to share their experiences.
- Can I choose my own mentor or student?
Yes, you can. It is best to let Dean Thomas know when you apply if you would like a specific mentor or student. Then, state that on your application, so that you can be assigned that person at the start of the new academic year. If the student is a new applicant, s/he must attend an orientation session or meet individually with Dean Thomas before the first group event.
- Can I change my mentor or student?
Either party can suggest a change, if another mentor or student is available. However, many pairs find that committing to meet for one academic year helps them to learn from the experience. Dean Thomas is available to provide resources and support, as needed.
- What shall I do to keep the relationship alive?
Having lunch together on Grounds, e-mailing, talking by phone/FaceTiming, and texting each other are common ways that mentors and students stay in touch. Face-to-face meetings at least once a month are ideal, especially if mentors and students share strong research or academic interests; however, virtual meetings may be preferred given one’s comfort level. Anything that shows your interest, care and commitment will promote the relationship.