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Friday, July 10, 2020

Activities & Organizations

Honors mentors preparing for fall with virtual training


The Honors College's student mentors have had to transition their program to an online format because of the coronavirus pandemic. | File photo

The Honors College’s student mentors have had to transition their program to an online format because of the coronavirus pandemic. | File photo

The Honors College Peer Mentorship Program transitioned to online training during the stay-at-home order and is now equipped to guide incoming honors freshmen.

The program’s coordinator, Alice Yang, said although training has transitioned to online rather than in the Honors College classrooms, mentors still heard from representatives from UH’s Counseling and Psychological Services and Office of Equal Opportunity Services, among other campus resources. 

Yang said that no decision has been made about whether the 2020 Honors Retreat will be held in person, but that announcement will likely be made in early June. Honors mentors and faculty will begin connecting with new students in June instead of waiting until the retreat. 

 “We understand that prospective students might need support from our honors mentors,” Yang said. “Whether because they have questions about Honors classes, are curious about the Honors community or just want to meet their fellow Honors classmates.”

Mentors are selected through applications and interviews in the preceding year, and then they are trained to assist freshmen in navigating UH academically and socially. Mentors serve as counselors during the Honors Retreat but also lead Campus Twilight Tours and serve alongside their mentees during the Honors Day of Service, among many other fall semester events.

The program was created in 2010 by the current student success assistant dean Brenda Rhoden, who wanted to improve the transition to college for each incoming class.

Music education sophomore Frank Eddy was inspired to become a mentor by his own honors mentor this past year.

“Thanks to her, I met a lot of people I now am very close to, and with her guidance, I found a home in several organizations on campus,” Eddy said. “I want to give back to the program (and) be able to guide my mentees to finding their home on campus.”

Rather than disappointing him, the quarantine increased Eddy’s excitement about the experience he was training for. He looks forward to raising their spirits after the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of multiple events at the end of their senior year.

The only concrete change to the program that Eddy anticipates once the fall semester begins is more awareness of safe health practices, like social distancing and mask-wearing, during group activities and events. Hosting multiple versions of the same event with a cap on the number of mentees allowed to attend each version is also an option to help with safety. 

Despite the fact that he will still be conveying the same information to his mentees, however, Eddy believes that virtual mentorship won’t be as fulfilling as in-person interactions.

“The connections you make by touring campus together, sharing a meal, exploring Houston, they really can’t compare to a Zoom call,” Eddy said. “I’m excited that UH is planning for a face-to-face fall, but if worst comes to pass, I will do everything in my power to provide the best possible experience that I can to my mentees.”

Yang remains confident that the honors mentors will perform their duties well regardless of the program format.

“Our mentors are flexible, creative and working diligently to make sure we can provide support to our incoming class, as we do every year,” she said.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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