Creating a Legacy: GW Nursing student mentor program

February 16, 2018

No matter what age, the first day a of school always seems a little scary. Adjusting to any new environment can be a challenge, but thanks to the determined efforts of Becca Mahnesmith, BSN’17, GW Nursing now has a formal undergraduate peer mentorship program.

“I felt first-semester students could benefit from mentors and third- and fourth-semester students could benefit from leadership experiences within the program,” said Ms. Mahnesmith.

Last year, she reached out to Malinda Whitlow, assistant professor and executive director of the BSN program, to help create one. A pilot program with six student mentors from Cohort 12 launched last fall.

Leesa Snyder, BSN ’17 and one of the program’s original steering committee members, underscored the benefits of the mentor program to first-year students. “I came to GW without knowing any students … and I remember being so lost at first, with so many questions and no idea who to [put] them to,” said Ms. Snyder. “When Becca came to me about the mentorship program, I thought of what it felt like to be a new student and realized what a comfort having a mentor would have been.” Both Ms. Snyder and Ms. Mahnesmith found benefits in mentorship programs at their undergraduate institutions that they replicated in the new program.

As the faculty coordinator, Dr. Whitlow refined the application, interview and training processes for new mentors. Mentors commit to meeting with 10 students for an hour each week for the semester. According to Ms. Mahnesmith, mentors encourage mentees to develop their professional networks and “serve as learning brokers and sounding boards for issues relating to the mentee’s career goals and development.”

The mentor selection process is application-based, and training includes a one-day workshop during which mentors and the steering committee meet to discuss expectations and plan events for the semester. Incoming students are assigned a mentor before orientation, and mentors reach out to mentees before the program starts.

“The mentorship program helping students navigate the challenges of a new program and school, while giving faculty more time focus on their academic success,” Dr. Whitlow said. Judging by the number of applications for prospective mentors next year, the program promises to be a success for years to come.