Activities & Organizations News

Multicultural Success Initiative helps Asian American students thrive

Multicultural Success initiative

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

The UH Asian American Studies Center’s Multicultural Success Initiative is entering its second year of a successful Peer Mentoring Program, in which undergraduate students are mentored weekly by doctoral students.

AASC recruited over 80 undergraduate and doctoral students for its 2022 program. Participants come from majors ranging from accounting and architecture to biochemistry and industrial design, said program manager Gayle Curtis.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we know it in early 2020, many students faced significant pandemic-related challenges, including racial discrimination and financial hardship, as well as social and emotional issues,” said AASC director Yali Zou. “The AASC created the Peer Mentoring Program to provide resources to undergraduate students, drawing from the existing human capital of UH doctoral students.”

The purpose of the program is to be responsive to student needs, provide academic, social and emotional support. It also helps students navigate university resources and promotes a sense of belonging, an aspect that has been shown to increase student retention, Curtis said.

Undergraduate mentees apply at the start of the new year. Accepted students receive a $500 scholarship upon joining the program in the spring and another $500 if they continue into the following fall semester. They meet weekly with their mentor, to whom they are matched based on academic and professional goals, at the pair’s convenience.

Mentors create a bridge between graduate and undergraduate student experiences and combating the sense of isolation brought on by the pandemic, program manager Amy Murdock said.

“Mentors provide a wide variety of support, including academic assistance, locating UH student services, helping with job searches and networking and perhaps most importantly, lending an empathetic ear,” Murdock said.

The Multicultural Success Initative faculty point to the overwhelming number of applications from both undergraduate and graduate students as evidence of the program’s success. The program spreads by word of mouth from students and faculty members, as well as through various UH media channels.

Zou, Curtis and Murdock have presented their findings on the impact of the Peer Mentoring Program at national peer-reviewed conferences.

“We are confident our program’s goals will benefit undergraduate mentees. Concomitantly, our doctoral students will gain new knowledge and further develop their leadership skills,” Murdock said. “We look forward to continuing to support UH students.”

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