The Merit of Thurgood Marshall College’s Mentor Programs

The Merit of Thurgood Marshall College’s Mentor Programs

Marshall College is known for its community-oriented activities and programs and many of them focus on student relations as well.

Near the end of Spring Quarter, a Senior Night celebration took place for graduating Thurgood Marshall College students through a Student Affairs Dean’s Interns Program event, a staff mentoring peer program. It was a very cold day, but the students played bingo and ate hot pizza with one another. 

Behind the scenes, there was much organizing, pondering on funding, and setting up. The heart of how to be a scholar and citizen is embedded in these activities, with Marshall College always having a final say in all events.

Alicia Miller is one of the backbones of these events, as she works specifically with student involvement. She is a fan of student organizations, working alongside transfer and commuter students. Perhaps one could see this love for event-planning and student camaraderie when they spot her, just a few feet away from students and engaged in the same activities as them on the grass.

Miller applied to Student Affairs for the Dean’s Intern Program in October of last year. Miller was a temporary employee back in January 2020 for a few months. Around that time, she was in the position she is in now. However, after she applied again last year in the fall, it became official. 

Marshall College’s programs are dedicated to the college’s motto of being “a scholar and citizen,” but there are two that are especially oriented toward building student-to-student relations. The Marshall College Transfer Peer Mentor Program allows incoming transfer students the opportunity to receive mentoring from transfer students (of more than two years’ worth of experience) as well as obtain peer support. 

The Each One Reach One program offers these similar resources but to first-year students — though transfer students may join it if they wish. 

Campus tours, for one, are for campus acclimation and they are ideal for both transfer students and first-year students. But it is important to note that transfer students may better understand resources like campus tours since they come from other institutions. The Marshall College Transfer Peer Mentor Program simply goes the extra mile by helping them locate and access them. 

Miller, the Coordinator of Student Activities for Thurgood Marshall College, is positive and warm. She oversees these two student programs that are a part of the dean’s programs, utilizing similar marketing strategies for both during Zoom meetings with student members (that sometimes takes place directly in the Marshall College Administration building).

She treats people as if they’re already friends, offering a sense of comfort. On the opposite side, she accepts how things don’t work out, too. With a shrug, she dubs them learning lessons.

Events are based on the number of those in attendance and what members wish to see. For instance, because students love food and networking, Miller has focused on picnics and prompted discussions. 

“For next year, […we] want to take people to the zoo, with mentees and mentors. Chat about favorite animals. We want to provide events that are fun … but also intentional,” Miller said.

In the Each One Reach One program for first-year students, some of the events they had ranged from a networking luncheon to a nearby UTC shopping trip. The program also held a picnic, a small scavenger hunt, and notebook decorating. 

This upcoming quarter, they wish to do a campus crawl (such as walking through restaurants and class buildings) guided by resources they can share amongst each other as a team. 

There is even funding available for peers to have lunch together on their own time on campus, with prompts such as icebreakers and check-ins. After all, the quarter can get incredibly busy.

Additionally, the Dean’s intern program is composed of coordinated positions and these are vital to Miller, who doesn’t take full credit for Marshall programming endeavors. The dean’s interns (who are not mentees and mentors) are typically only coordinators; others are just a part of the peer mentor program. The coordinators do program planning, recruitment and building programs. 

Miller said that she loves seeing students coming into themselves and growing into these coordinator roles. While team spirit and a desire to aid other students with their identity is crucial, she states that they should also want to have fun and wish to benefit themselves as well. For instance, some students have roles as transfer program coordinator and Dean’s intern. There is a sense of generosity in that those who apply aren’t even always transfer students.

Tresa Varghese is a coordinator of the Transfer Peer Mentoring Program and a mentor as well.

“As a student coordinator, I am more able to empathize with the transfer students. I understand their schedules and their curiosity about the new campus. I am also easier to talk to than staff so I am more intimately aware of their concerns about navigating their new environment. They not only build lasting bonds with each other but also with me. I have made lasting friendships due to my role as TPMP coordinator,” she said.

There have been some challenges so far. Virtual programming, due to COVID, has had low attendance; in-person activities certainly engage the most people. On Valentine’s Day, less than a handful of students showed up for a Jeopardy event that involved prizes at the end.  

“My … general concern for the entire world is just COVID,” Miller said. “[It’s] in and out so often. [It] impacts both programs through personalization and [the] programming aspect. If we’re told we can’t do programming in person, then we can’t do programming in person.” 

Still a concern might eventually be actual recruitment. Reaching as many students as possible in person is a priority as transfer students can struggle with “culture shock” and relearning or resocializing in ways they haven’t before.

For many transfer students, Spring Quarter was their first or second in-person quarter since their start as a student at UC San Diego.  For them, the process can be very isolating in that they’re starting off on different footing than their other peers. 

Moreover, the transfer program normally catches them in their last year. Miller wishes to nurture a space for transfer students to build identity by being friendly and clearly advertising resources. She ultimately emphasizes the importance of connections and sharing these resources.

“The transition [from COVID] was good and bad,” Miller said. “Better and worse in some ways for transfer students. For some … it was a much more convenient way to learn about resources and connect with folks and professional staff. For some, it was intimidating as they had to [reach] out virtually.”

Either way, Miller asserts that they have a plan to flip-flop to bring to students what they want.

“We encourage them to figure out a virtual platform to talk. Like Discord. Cell phones too,” Miller said. “How many students like to email? We have events specifically for mentor mentee pairs to connect.”

This process could be easier with the incoming Welcome Week and more in-person events.

“I might be a bit biased but I think these two programs are incredible,” Miller said. “They fit two different populations. If someone wasn’t a transfer and they joined, it might not be a problem.”

Also, fourth-year transfer students are considered “second year.” They’re caught as mentees and then mentors in their senior year. They have a better grip on the class environment, socializing, knowing where connections may benefit students, and more. They can help newer transfers reflect.

“[There’s] truly, no disappointment,” Miller said.  “Any time we put on a program, it’s always been for the students. We’ve always benefited at least one student. I want to make sure that we’re doing something for every student that we possibly can.”

The main takeaway after events is feeling like one is a part of the community and having a connection they can always come back to. 

When asked if they’re Marshall-exclusive, Miller said that “[they] will never turn you away. If anything, [they] will embrace you a little more.”

When students feel heard, their voices may only amplify over time. Miller has a belief that students can only benefit from turning to avenues that provide them resources to be more well-rounded.

“We encourage all of our students to get truly involved,” she said. “Put yourself out there. Have fun. Make friends. Create that community you want to be around you .. while balancing not just your academics but your involvement [with] social life. Go to as many events as possible. Make friends with everyone. Listen to everyone’s stories.”

Image Courtesy by Fauxels

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About the Contributor
Eunice Kim, Features Co-Editor
Eunice dangles pencils from her philtrum outside and during writing profiles as well as practices poetry and worse memes while sidling up next to her boyfriend. She loves cuties wedges, trying to be esoteric and failing, and lingering like she's loitering.
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