Matador Mentor program extends student orientation

Daily Sundial

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The Matador Mentor program, which was created to help freshmen transition into CSUN, began its second year during new student orientation sessions beginning Aug. 16.

School officials created the program, which informally began in Fall 2004, to help new students become involved in the academic, cultural and social climate of CSUN.

In 2004, 88 percent of freshmen said they would like to keep in contact with their orientation leaders throughout the year, which is why the program was officially established, according to Hilda Garcia, assistant director of New Student Programs in Student Development.

“Everything is personal, where we try to connect with the students on many levels through e-mails and phone calls,” Garcia said. “For those in their first year, we want to create an experience that will enhance their time here, create an awareness of resources available to them and – help them feel like they are connected to CSUN.”

For the 2005-06 academic year, 20 mentors were chosen from 45 applicants to assist about 2,800 new students. Each mentor is assigned to help a portion of the incoming students with concerns and issues they may have during the school year.

In order to become a Matador Mentor, an individual must have at least one year of experience as an orientation leader, he or she must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree and must be involved in a student club or organization and community participation.

Freshman psychology major Heather Smith was a part of the first day of orientation and didn’t know anyone, but she said she likes what the Matador Mentor program is offering.

“I am not the kind of person that has a problem coming to events like this,” Smith said. “But I was happy to know I could have a person I know on a more personal level. – I could go to (them) with my concerns during my freshman year.”

Matador Mentor Jessica Bilmes, junior business marketing major, will be mentoring Smith during the upcoming year. Bilmes has been a part of the new student orientation program for the past two years.

“It’s not just what you can do for the program, but what the program can do for you,” Bilmes said. “We all get a lot out of it, and there is room for growth after being a mentor.”

The mentors are expected to keep in touch with their assigned freshmen by e-mail at least five or six times each semester, inviting them to attend activities on campus, such as the pre-basketball celebration and early semester events promoted by the Welcome All Matadors committee.

The mentors are also asked to encourage freshmen to use campus resources like the Oviatt Library, and to ask faculty and staff for help with their research, especially during midterms and final exams.

They are also supposed to inform new students about the Community Service Assistants Matador Patrol, which escorts students to their cars after night classes.

“The – mentors do a fabulous job,” Garcia said. “The best way for the freshmen to connect is through their peers.”

After being a mentor, a person can apply for a higher position in the Student Development office, Bilmes said.

She said there are other opportunities available, such as applying to become an orientation coordinator or becoming a part of the TAKE cast, a theatrical performance team that brings out issues students deal with as they go through college.

Michael Sullivan can be reached at michael.sullivan.843@csun.edu.