University News

SEAS unveils new mentoring program

Twelve students sign on to serve as guides for first-years with disabilities as they acclimate to Brown

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 5, 2015

Student and Employee Accessibility Services recently launched a new program this semester that connects first-years with disabilities to sophomore, junior and senior mentors.

The Bob and Charlie Poole Program was created to “build a community … with an enhanced level of support,” said Jonathan Corey, assistant director of SEAS. First-years participating in the program can “get to know other students with disabilities,” he said.

To kick-start the program, SEAS held a training and information session last month for the 12 initial mentors, Corey said. During the information session, the participants talked about the program’s general structure and goals, said Isabella Kres-Nash ’18, one of the mentors.

Kres-Nash praised SEAS’s responsiveness to student feedback on topics including mentor-mentee relationships and the format of the emails sent to prospective mentees about the program.

At a second training session, the participants focused on “the general characteristics of being a mentor,” Corey said. Throughout the training, Corey tried to emphasize the theme of collaboration between SEAS and the participants. He also stressed that the program would feature “a certain amount of organic-ness” because this marks the first year the program is being offered.

Though there have not been any difficulties with the launch of the program, SEAS is still trying to figure out its basic structure, Corey said. SEAS wants to learn how to effectively communicate with the mentors and mentees, he said. In addition, SEAS is looking to boost the number of mentees in the program, as only “a handful” of first-years have signed up so far, he added.

For the rest of the year, Kres-Nash said she hopes to foster an environment of support for her mentees and help first-years with disabilities “be able to navigate Brown.”

“I really got involved in this to build a support network and to connect freshmen to all of the resources available,” Kres-Nash said. The program will ideally prevent students registered with SEAS from feeling isolated in the Brown community, she said.

Catherine Axe ’87, director of SEAS, wrote in an email to The Herald that she hopes the mentees will gain insight from their mentors to fully utilize “the accommodations and services at Brown.”

Both Corey and Kres-Nash highlighted that the program focuses on independent adjustment and learning. “Having a disability at Brown is about you gaining independence, and with that, asking for what you need — no one will tell you what to do,” Kres-Nash said. For some students who find this independence scary, the program could help with the adjustment process, she added.

Looking ahead, SEAS remains optimistic about the Poole program’s potential to become part of the network of advising at Brown, like the Meiklejohn Peer Advising Program, Corey said.