New Mentoring Program Targets Student Success (photo slideshow)  

A group of black staff and faculty have launched a grassroots mentoring program focused on student retention and graduation

The newly formed Black Faculty and Staff Association created the Student Mentoring Program at UCR. sandra baltazar martinez

More than 50 black staff and faculty are looking to strengthen their relationships with UC Riverside’s black student population.

The group, led by Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Ron Coley, organized the inaugural Student Mentoring Program on Oct. 12. Sponsored by the newly formed Black Faculty and Staff Association, the event had two specific goals: student retention and continued support of graduation rates within the black student population.

Coley said the participation of black staff and faculty will be crucial going forward.

“We all remember what it was like as a first-year, second-year college student. We were lost at times; we needed guidance and mentors,” Coley told a room full of staff and faculty during the first student-mentee orientation. The program targets black students, but is open to everyone.

More than 50 mentors have signed up for this grassroots initiative so far. Mentors and mentees communicate via email and hold monthly in-person meetings throughout the academic year.

Mentors said they signed up because it’s their turn to give back. Their role will also focus on “students’ professional growth and effectiveness in anticipation of graduation from UCR and the pursuit of advanced education or their desired career placement,” said Tamala Choma, senior counsel for campus and health affairs.

The mentoring program will become another layer of support for black students at UCR. Earlier this year, The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, analyzed data from four-year colleges and universities and ranked UCR as one of the best in the nation; UCR graduates black students at a 1.7 percent higher rate than their white counterparts.

Fela Adewusi, a first-year environmental science major, was among the 50 students who attended the first Student Mentoring Program event. Adewusi, whose family lives in San Francisco, said it came at a perfect time because he’s looking for a new support system.

“It’s my second week here, and I don’t know anybody, so this helps to know that I’m not alone,” said Adewusi, 17. “I hope to be paired up with a mentor who can show me around campus and who can help me be successful as a first-year student.”

Christopher Page, 17, a freshman business major, said learning about the program gave him a sense of community. Cambria Kelley, 19, a second-year creative writing student, said it was “good to have reinforcement” from a mentor on campus.

So far, about 7 percent of the mentees are graduate students; 35 percent are freshmen; 17.5 percent are sophomores; 23 percent are juniors; and 17.5 percent are seniors. The top three majors among the group are psychology, biology, and sociology.

Anthropology Professor João Vargas said he volunteered to mentor because working together increases the chances of student success.

Kimberly Allain, director of employee and organizational development with UCR’s Human Resources Department, said she was happy to join the mentoring program too.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Allain said. “It’s warming my heart to see how bright-eyed students are about their future.”

Members of the Student Mentoring Program steering committee: Ron Coley, Kimberly Allain, Nicole Butts, Tamala Choma, Tomika Coates, Maalik Delaney, Ekpeju E-Nunu, Jeremiah Gordon, Quincy Kinsey, Raquel Rall, Rhiannon Little-Surowski, and Ellery Triche.

More information:

  • The next Black Faculty and Staff Association student information session will be on Tuesday, Nov. 21, from noon-1 p.m. at HUB 355.
  • Staff and faculty who want to become mentors should email:

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