Establishing a network of Peer Mentoring programs

Telemachus and Mentor (public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

Telemachus and Mentor (public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

In January of 2008 I and two colleagues were awarded funding from our Student’s Union for $112,800 to sustain and develop “curricular peer mentoring” programs at the University of Calgary. (The link sends you to our current peer mentoring program website in the Faculty of Communication and Culture.)

In this blog post I describe peer mentoring and the mandate of the funding, and provide a timeline of events in the first year of establishing the Campus-wide network.

Program description

“Curricular peer mentoring programs” are a sub-category of peer mentoring programs which differs from most “matching” programs and individual tutoring programs.

These kinds of programs usually invite students to serve as academic mentors and facilitators to their peers within a course they have recently taken. The peer mentors then collaborate with a “host instructor” to design and implement their role in class and outside of class while they take a credit course on peer mentoring. The aims of the program involve benefits not only for students but for the peer mentors, host instructors, and programs. They aim to establish a “learning community” and a “community of practice” among these participants which enhances teaching and learning holistically through partnership in collaborative learning.

These programs are the subject of a peer mentor’s handbook and a scholarly book I have been writing/editing (also both funded by the SU out of an earlier, separate grant).

Funding mandate

The “network” funding from the SU was over 3 years and is to be used for 1) sustaining the two existing programs in the Faculty of Nursing and Faculty of Communication and Culture, 2) developing a campus-wide network of programs in other faculties and departments, and 3) developing funds and human resources for program and/or network sustainability. You can see our successful grant application here in pdf.

Progress timeline

  • During Winter term 2008, we received word from administrators in both of our faculties that our peer mentoring courses were being sustained in various ways. Perhaps receiving this monetary award confirmed to our faculties the value of this program.
  • In May we received the funds, to be administered through the Teaching and Learning Center.
  • In June we consulted with the TLC director and agreed that I and my colleague as faculty members (we who wrote the grant application and developed & ran our programs for the past 3 years) would be directing the project, allocating funds and making most of the decisions.
  • In June we developed a job description for the Network Coordinator.
  • In July my co-leader from Nursing suddenly decided to resign from the university, but on good terms with her faculty. She left a legacy behind and was very responsible about her departure. She handed off the Nursing program to two very capable instructors. I then met them at a meeting facilitated by my former funding partner. We communicated this event to the SU and I reassured them that I was staying and was committed to the project.
  • In August I revised the budget and position descriptions considerably to reflect the departure of my co-director. Instead of hiring a network coordinator, I would receive a small yearly stipend for directing the project, and I would be able to allocate honoraria to other faculty members for their leadership in developing programs in their departments. I also asked for the ability to provide small bursaries for travel to conferences to present on peer mentoring initiatives.
  • By August 1st I had received 3 other inquiries or replies from faculty members across the university who were interested in implementing peer mentoring programs, or were already implementing something similar.
  • In Mid-August, 5 peer mentoring instructors & coordinators from Nursing and Communication & Culture met to discuss their plans for the coming term and develop a network of mutual support. We have tentatively planned to have a combined class session with our peer mentors from both programs in November, since both courses meet Mondays 5-8pm.
  • Throughout August 2008, as we plan for the Fall term, I am acting as program coordinator in our faculty as well, helping with peer mentoring placements and the planning of an orientation workshop for instructors and peer mentors, and writing up a course-based research ethics application with the new instructor.

2 thoughts on “Establishing a network of Peer Mentoring programs

  1. Hello – I have for two years thinking and writing about implementing a similarly structured mentoring program in our nursing department. We are a very new, very small Registered Nurse 2-year program in Seattle Washington.
    The concept of mentoring in the academic arena is not fully explored nor operationalized, although the emphasis on “student-centered” learning lends itself directly to this idea. I am intrigued by that your co-leaders are nursing faculty, so I am interested in communicating with you all to explore this idea further> I believe that collaboration as both a concept and in action could certainly prove beneficial to the academic nursing setting and might also ideally be sustained as a best-practice in the nursing profession as the students move into the workplace.
    Gail McLean RN BSN MNc.

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