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GPSC plans undergraduate mentoring program

Designed to build a link between the undergraduate, graduate and faculty populations, and construct a medium for exchange of information between the groups, a proposed residential cluster mentoring program will begin this fall.

The graduate student organizers of the mentoring program will be working with administrators in the Office of Residential Life over the summer and throughout the fall semester to integrate graduate and professional students into the programming in each of the six quads on Main West Campus.

The original plan, developed and presented to the Graduate and Professional Student Council by fifth-year medical student Bill Wood, former president of the Davison Council, was directed at students interested in medical school, and included professionals addressing issues such as substance abuse in the work environment. The idea stemmed from meetings between former Vice Dean of Medical Education Russel Kaufman and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.

A growing interest in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities has broadened the scope of the program. Wood assembled a working group with Divinity student Sarah Moore, fourth-year sociology graduate student and former GPSC president Elayne Heisler and third-year physics graduate student and GPSC President Rob Saunders.

"We were all thinking we would start working with upperclassmen," Wood said. "Ideally this could be something for all four years."

Duke Student Government President Joshua Jean-Baptiste appointed senior Emily Grey, DSG chief of staff, to oversee the program in the fall.

Although it will be several weeks before the details are defined, the objectives include residential cluster dinners, a coffee and dessert series, interdisciplinary "fireside chats" and advising "office hours." Ideally, faculty members would also be included in order to achieve the three main goals<addressing residential issues, facilitating informal discussions and encouraging advising and mentoring.

Audrey Beck, a second-year student in sociology and GPSC vice president, is leading the initiative over the summer. While summer absences have reduced the number of people assisting in the planning, Beck expects to have over 30 mentors by fall, with an average of five mentors per quad.

"Our main focus is to promote attendance or just to have undergraduates begin to think about attending graduate school," Beck said. "These people are passionate about what they do and passionate about helping others discover their passions. But we also want to foster knowledge [among undergraduates] about what the other half of the Duke population is doing."

Beck added that for those who have already begun to work in fields such as law and medicine and work daily with younger people, the practice will be invaluable.

The mentoring program will be "two-pronged," including one-on-one career counseling as well as an aspect of informal communication. The mentors will attend current programs which are relevant to making career decisions so they can evaluate the interests and best advise students.

"In the future, the residential cluster system could provide students with academic advising support, career advising and [help students] prepare for graduate exams," Moneta said. "I only think of good things that could happen so there is no reason to put too many restrictions on it right away."

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