After much hype but low participation, freshman mentorship program gets scrapped

The University ended its freshmen mentorship program this fall as GW’s student life offices continue to rein in spending and better cater their support to specific populations of students.

Nixing the Guide to Personal Success program – which paired all incoming freshmen with upperclassmen, faculty or alumni to ease the transition to college – is one of the most visible changes in the University’s constant tinkering of student life programs.

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said the program wasted resources by offering it to all undergraduates instead of just to groups like first-generation students. It also stirred confusion between freshmen and their academic advisers, he said.

The program had been mandatory for freshmen until last year, though many students would “meet once or twice” with their guides, if at all, before adjusting to college life, Konwerski said. He added that the program was “another layer of bureaucracy on top of faculty and advising roles.”

Last fall, guides were required to meet with students at least once a month and set up two outings per semester, though the program became optional. About 300 students – almost 13 percent of the freshman class – signed up for a GPS guide after GW ditched the mandate.

Konwerski had said then that a stricter structure would improve the program. But this fall, Konwerski reversed course and lauded the decision by Center for Student Engagement director Tim Miller to scrap the failed program altogether.

“One of the hardest things that any organization has to decide is how do you stop doing something that maybe isn’t doing what it’s meant to be doing,” Konwerski said last week.

Miller said the program could be awkward because the best pairs “happen naturally, instead of through a matching process.”

Matthew Traina, a sophomore in the GW School of Business, said he was disappointed with the program last year after he and his guide met one time and “afterwards she didn’t talk to me.” He said it didn’t seem like a serious time commitment for her.

“I was expecting more out of the program,” Traina said. “I think the idea of the program was good, but it was just not executed well.”

Miller had previously planned to transform the program into one involving career mentorship, which would be called the Connect Program, but administrators unveiled plans this summer to throw their support behind the University’s existing career center and alumni association mentorship program instead. The University is also trying to connect first-generation students with mentors.

With the end of the program, Miller said GW will rely more on its house staff members to be a resource for new students transitioning to college life.

Konwerski added that the GPS program, housed in the Center for Student Engagement, “never had a huge budget associated with it,” but declined to provide exact amounts.

Student support and services – one of the largest costs the University foots – have undergone major shifts under GW’s current administration, which stresses efficiency and has expanded personalized support to populations such as veterans and first-generation college students.

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