Three boxes labeled “yes,” “no” and “maybe” sit on the floor of John Rooney’s office in the University of Rhode Island’s Roosevelt Hall. Rooney, Coordinator of the Transfer Resource Center, has been reviewing applications for next fall’s URI 101 program student mentors, and dividing them into these boxes as he and several other New Student Programs faculty members make decisions about each candidate.
The process began in February, when an online application for URI 101 mentors became available to students. Rooney assesses them based on academic success, campus involvement, university knowledge, diversity and more.
“We’re looking for the most broadly diverse group of students from different majors, residencies, classes and backgrounds,” Rooney said.
Since its inception over 20 years ago, the URI 101 program has undergone several changes that have allowed it to evolve into what it is today.
“The purpose of URI 101 used to be to teach students about the university in general,” Rooney said. “Now, our focus is on teaching students how to succeed in their major and how to plan for their careers.”
While URI 101 was originally titled “Traditions and Transformations,” its current title, “Planning for Academic Success,” describes the main goal of the program – to teach freshmen how to thrive academically.
Each class consists of about 20 students taught by a faculty member and at least one student mentor, although this varies by major. For example, two student mentors who are supervised by a graduate student teach each URI 101 class within the College of Business.
Classes focus on introducing students to their major, teaching them about the advising program, showing them important locations on campus, discussing career planning and more. Many classes are required to attend a Diversity Week event, participate in a civic engagement project, post in weekly forums on Sakai and form study groups within their Living and Learning Communities.
“URI 101 is the glue of the learning community,” Rooney said. “Students are able to use each other as resources since they’re bound to have at least three classes with other students from their URI 101 section.”
Mentors also benefit from the program since they receive three credits for teaching a section of URI 101. In addition to teaching URI 101, they are required to take CSV 302, open to mentors only. This course gives mentors the chance to discuss how their classes are going, brainstorm ideas, create a portfolio and resume and connect their work in URI 101 back to their own major.
One student who earned a spot in the Fall 2014 mentor program is junior Kelechi Agwunobi, who wanted to become a mentor in order to share some of his triumphs and failures as a college student.
“The ability to tell a story behind every lesson helped me teach students about the key to success at URI,” he said.
Agwunobi also enjoyed the responsibility of teaching students how to budget time, balance work and social life and use their full network of students, faculty and professionals to their advantage.
“As a first semester freshman, the most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of networking,” he said. “I wanted to pass that on to my mentees.”