Training and developing first year experience mentors and building a community

Ms Nina Riikonen1

1University of Auckland, Faculty Of Arts, Auckland, Auckland CBD University Area, New Zealand


First Year Experience (FYE) mentors provide helpful assistance to new students transitioning into the faculty. Training, developing and engaging quality mentors is paramount to long term success. Students who volunteer as mentors not only develop skills and confidence, but gain many benefits from being part of the FYE community.

Research has shown that positive interactions with their mentees increases mentor satisfaction. In our FYE programme mentors mainly have email contact with their first-year mentees. While mentees can ask their mentors questions at any time, contact is centred on a weekly email which contains advice and tips the mentors write themselves. Contact is very high at the start of the year and drops substantially halfway into the first semester. Mentors regularly share that it can be hard to stay motivated when they receive few replies to their emails.

Mentors help the programme in various ways. We need them to regularly engage with events and student outreach. Over the course of two years we worked to increase mentor engagement and strengthen team cohesion. We did this through clear expectations, regular contact, face-to-face meetings and training days, requirements to report back, and community building. This presentation will outline how we created our mentor development structure, analyse which aspects were most successful, and show that by investing more time and resources in our mentors we not only improved our own programme, but also helped facilitate a strong mentor community which greatly benefits the students who volunteer for us and the students that they mentor.


Nina Riikonen is a Student Experience Adviser in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. She coordinates the faculty First Year Experience Programme, and also works with undergraduate orientation and student events.


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