Guide program increases retention rate

By Bryce Nethery, COM 250 Reporter

Edited by Heitor DePaula, COM 303 Editor

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – The transition from high school to college can be a challenge for some students, but Berry College has created a mentorship program targeting a demographic of first-year students.

The Guide Program partners with Berry’s Admissions Office to aim for a specific type of student that isn’t involved in a cohort. Cohorts can include scholarship programs or sports teams here at Berry. Essentially, the program targets students who aren’t coming into Berry with a group to identify with.

The students involved in this program benefit through a mentorship program with faculty and staff members in order to have a healthy college experience.

Steven Hames, the faculty advisor of Berry’s student media group Viking Fusion, serves as one of the Guide Mentors. Hames has been a part of the program since its origination around 2015.

“The Guide Program is a way for members of the Berry staff to serve as a mentor for students who could be considered for demographics that put them at risk,” Hames said. “Having multiple mentors or multiple people to help guide students to increases the retention rate.”

In addition, the program also identifies students who have a higher chance of transferring out of Berry after their freshman year. Reasons for the transfers can range from distance, family situations or having a challenging major.

The Guide Program would not be possible without the faculty and staff volunteer mentors. These mentors must have experience in a wide variety of areas in order to accommodate for different student needs.

Lindsay Norman - Guide Program
Lindsay Norman, Berry College associate dean of students and guide mentor, works and prepares for her weekly meeting with her mentee.

Associate Dean of Students and Guide Mentor Lindsay Norman said that the program doesn’t assign specific students for specific needs. However, the program tries to make connections from the beginning to help students have a better understanding of their guides.

“For the three area coordinators Meredith (Johnson) will sometimes (we) have paired people that are in their area,” Norman said.

Despite this, the program tries to give their students an opportunity to have mentors in different areas of campus and have another area of support for the student.

Although this program targets students who might have a hard time adjusting to college, it is not a requirement. Norman said that there were some situations where students ignored emails sent by the mentors.

“They can always opt out,” Norman said. “Sometimes students will say, ‘Hey, I really don’t have time for this anymore I feel pretty good. I know you’re there as a resource and I’ll contact you if I need anything.’”

The Guide Program has had a huge impact on the campus community despite the lack of promotion around campus. However, Assistant Dean of Students and head of the Guide Program Meredith Johnson is excited about the future of the guide program.

“We are thinking about how do we make it developmentally appropriate for students?” Johnson said. “How do we make it fit to where they are by class year? One idea is to have freshman and sophomore experience with both the mentoring and the group aspect.”

This development will allow the students to get the experience of the variety of cohorts around campus. It will also give the juniors and seniors the opportunity to give another mentor to the younger students.

The future of the Guide Program is hopeful with Johnson and the mentors as they guide new developments to the program to better benefit the future of Berry students.

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