Policy

Mentoring Program Helps First-Gen Students and Retired Faculty

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) offers multiple mentoring programs — matching students with students in the same disciplines, new faculty with experienced faculty and students and staff with librarians. But it's a mentoring program that connects students with retired professors that may offer the younger participants the best preparation for a successful college career while giving the older ones the chance to continue serving their schools.

The institution's Emeriti Mentor Program, sponsored by its Emeriti Association, matches students with retired faculty based on academic interest. When the match is successful, the student gains know-how and advice that can "serve as a bridge to future academic, personal and professional growth."

In a recent article Melvin Green explained why he has been mentoring undergraduates for the last decade, following his retirement as a professor of biology at UCSD. Early in his own college career, when Green had told his mother that he was switching from engineering to chemistry, she cried, fearful that he'd never make a proper living in his newly chosen field.

When he retired, Green wanted to help those who were first-generation students too, facing similar life challenges. He founded UCSD's mentoring program in 2006, he wrote, specifically to help those students from low-income families who were new to the college experience.

Currently, the program has about 50 emeriti professors participating as mentors, helping almost 100 freshmen and sophomores. "The main goal of these mentors is to provide career guidance and an understanding ear," Green explained.

As he noted in the article, the arrangement helps not just the student but the instructor too. "After retirement, professors typically experience a sense of sudden loss from their once productive lives because they are no longer involved in teaching or research. Those that want to maintain some involvement with the university find mentoring a very worthy and satisfying activity," he wrote. "Universities need to realize the great resource they have in their retired professors and find ways to keep them actively involved."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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