UWindsor Together: Student Mental Health and Remote Learning Services
Students engaged in videoconferencePeer mentorship programs for UWindsor students are adjusting to the social distancing demanded by the pandemic.

Peer mentorship moves online during COVID-19

One of the many ways that students help each other at the University is through extensive peer mentorship programs offered both within faculties and centrally.

“Our peer mentorship initiatives are a tangible and moving example of how much our students care about each other,” says provost Douglas Kneale. “COVID-19 hasn’t changed that human element one bit — it’s just shifted our outreach into a different medium. I salute the hundreds of students, staff, and faculty who make these programs so successful, this year and always.”

There are dozens of mentorship programs at the University, among them the following:

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science’s Reach Peer Support Program, facilitated by about 30 third- and fourth-year Reach Peers, is the one-stop shop for first- and second-year students who need help with anything related to studying, time management, or resources on campus. Through the Reach portal, students can log on and talk directly to a Reach Peer, 12 to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday.

The Faculty of Education’s TIME Mentorship Program pairs fourth-year concurrent education students with incoming ones, helping students access services and managing the rules, expectations and activities that come with student life. Currently, there are 26 mentoring groups, with three to five mentees per mentor.

The Faculty of Engineering’s WINONE Tutorial program offers tutoring and mentoring to first- and second-year engineering students. Through the Virtual Tutorial Classroom in Blackboard, students can access course tutoring from tutors of their choice who’ve been successful in their courses and can get advice on managing their program or ask questions about various aspects of the engineering program.

For more than 10 years, student leaders have worked with groups of 20 to 30 first-year students through the Faculty of Human Kinetics’ KinOne Mentorship program. This program has always adapted to student needs, and during COVID-19 communications have moved to social media, including Instagram and Facebook groups. Mentees get to know each other and develop the skills for success, while honing and passing on leadership skills to those who will become the next generation of mentors.

Launched in 2009, the Faculty of Law’s peer mentorship program connects first-year students with upper-year student mentors for one-on-one support throughout their first year. For 2020-21, the program is completely online, and the mentors are providing increased check-ins and evaluations to respond to concerns of first-year students. Currently, there are 196 first-year mentees and 189 upper-year mentors.

The Faculty of Nursing’s Lab Peer Mentors and Simulation Peer Mentors play key roles in experiential learning through labs and simulations in the program. The peer mentors are third- or fourth-year nursing students who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, clinical, and academic skills. Their responsibilities include the daily maintenance and running of the labs, student assistance, the preparation of simulation materials, and support throughout simulation sessions.

The Odette School of Business’s Helping Odette Undergraduate Students Excel (HOUSE) program provides guidance to students throughout their first year. The program starts with orientation in August, where students get split off into their houses: Entrepreneurs, Shareholders, Investors, and Consultants. The students then compete against each other for points during House days once a month throughout the year. Currently, there are 28 upper-year mentors in the program, each with 11 or 12 student mentees.

The Faculty of Science’s MySci mentorship program matches first-year students and mentors based on their program major and interests. Mentors provide insight into courses, degree audits, university resources, and give advice on how best to manage and be successful in their classes. During COVID-19, mentors and mentees connect through email, video chat, or instant messaging, depending on the needs of the students and mentors. Currently, the program has 77 mentors and 96 mentees.

The Community Building Program was created to bridge the gap between students and the UWindsor community caused by COVID-19. The program is 12 weeks in total, split into two six-week parts. The first piece works to provide students with the skills and knowledge that research suggests are connected to student success overall, and the second part focuses on the student-to-student connection specific to their program, and success strategies specific to the global pandemic. The aim of the program is for incoming students to feel a sense of connection to their community via support and encouragement from their upper-year peers, as well as get a head start on some essential student skills.

—Bridget Heuvel