A new freshmen mentor program is another way BYU is implementing gospel principles to try to improve the experience of its students, according to John S. Tanner, associate academic vice president.
Through the program, which began at the beginning of fall semester, every entering freshman was assigned a mentor from among the university's faculty, administration and staff."We know we are brothers and sisters in the gospel and eternally," said Brother Tanner. "That can be part of our relationship with one another on campus, even between faculty and students."
He pointed out that there are basically two purposes for the mentor program: to ensure that the freshmen have someone in the campus community who knows them by name and to orient them about university life in general and life at BYU specifically.
After the mentor program proposal was presented to the BYU board of trustees, a prayer was offered asking the Lord to "bless the freshmen." Brother Tanner said that has become the program's theme.
With about 900 mentors, the ratio of mentors to students is approximately 1 to 6. Although most of the mentors are faculty members, some are from the administration - including BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee. Other mentors are from the university staff.
Mentors met with their assigned students during the first week of school for about an hour so they could get to know each other and to plan for other activities.
Brother Tanner said he has been pleased with the early results of the program. The mentors offer help and counsel about university life when the freshmen are most at risk to run into problems such as homesickness and discouragement or may be falling into questionable habits.
For example, the mentors explain the type of homework the student can expect, the importance of going to class and how to take advantage of social activities. The mentors often share personal experiences from their college days.
"The follow-up over the next few weeks will be important," Brother Tanner said. "After that, the freshmen will have their `sea legs' and be less in need of that immediate kind of support."
BYU's drive for a higher level of academic excellence doesn't need to hurt its care for the individual student, Brother Tanner believes.
"The mentor program is a tradition that builds on the legacy at BYU that the faculty cares about the students," he said. "That is not a new thing on campus, but this reaffirms it."