Students talking at a mentor event

Mentoring program sets engineering students up for success

14 August 2023

Helping students transition from high school to university life

Adjusting to life at university can be challenging, but an ongoing mentoring program is helping students make friends, form healthy habits, and build their networks.

Designed to allow students to learn from their peers and make a smoother transition to university life, more than one thousand students are assigned to the Faculty of Engineering’s mentoring program each year.

The program engages student mentors, who have completed at least one semester of their degrees, and lead mentors, who are further along in their studies and can commit to more involvement in the program, to guide the program.

Having student input throughout the program's design ensures that the events and opportunities are in line with student needs, and builds an environment where they are comfortable to share their experiences, concerns and successes.

In groups of 5-15 people, mentees catch up with their mentors on a regular basis and can access a program of events intended to both build friendships and provide professional and personal learning opportunities.

Mentees are generally placed in groups alongside other students from the same stream of engineering, meaning they can lean on each other and ask for advice specific to their own units of study.

The mentors are given specific training to prepare them to address student queries and build skills of their own, including leadership, interpersonal, and organisational skills. The lead mentors, who have had additional training, are on hand to provide guidance to mentors and manage selected events.

We spoke to a mentee, a mentor, and a lead mentor to find out what they’ve learnt from the program.

Mentee: Shreshth Verma

Mentee Shreshth Verma

Mentee Shreshth Verma

Shreshth Verma, first year Bachelor of Advanced Computing student, has valued the mentoring program as an opportunity to make friends and learn from his peers.

"Engineering students are often thought to be introverted, but it's invigorating to be paired with people from diverse backgrounds and meet other students", he said.

"I’ve gained experience and social skills by interacting on a personal level with some of my peers and mentors through the group meetings, which are also a restorative break from my studies."

Having committed to the program, Shreshth encourages other students to use their initiative and make the most of opportunities.

"This program is a quick and relatively easy way to make friends, but you get out what you put into it and you need to be willing to interact with others."

"As a mentee you not only have access to someone who has progressed in their degree further than you have in yours, but you can also cultivate friendships that might last a lifetime!"

Mentor: Andrew Guerrera

Mentor Andrew Guerrera

Mentor Andrew Guerrera

Though only in the first year of his Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Biomedical) and Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) degree, Andrew Guerrera is already volunteering to share his experiences with incoming students.

Andrew chose to be a mentor in part because he understands the difficulties students can face when starting university.

"I want to help students begin their university journey with positivity and confidence by sharing my experiences and what I have learnt so far", he said.

Becoming a mentor has also been beneficial for Andrew, particularly as a first year student himself.

Being able to connect with mentees and the other mentors has been a great way to meet new, likeminded students with similar interests to me.

"I have also learnt so much more about the university in my preparations to become a mentor, and when providing support to my mentees."

Lead mentor: Carlos Jorges Ramirez

Lead mentor Carlos Jorges Ramirez

Lead mentor Carlos Jorges Ramirez

As a lead mentor, Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Biomedical) and Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) student Carlos Jorges Ramirez has been able to see both mentors and mentees benefit from the program.

"The biggest challenge for new students tends to be the transition from high school to university – particularly one as big and complex as the University of Sydney", he said.

A challenge many engineering students face is how to get started on the Professional Engagement Program (PEP), an engineering-specific program which requires students to build 600 hours of activities such as work placements and industry site visits to prepare for the workplace.

"600 hours across a degree can seem like an eternity, but we address these concerns in the Mentoring program to help them get started."

Carlos has also seen firsthand the benefits to the program mentors, which include widening their own networks and building useful skills that will apply to the workplace. They can also benefit from the events, from the Study Skills workshop to social events such as trivia nights.

"Not only do the mentors enjoy similar benefits to the mentees, they also have a unique opportunity to develop leadership experience", said Carlos.

 "This includes interpersonal and communication skills such as active listening, the ability to collaborate in the team setting, and even using common software to increase productivity."

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