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Supporting First-gen Students Through Mentoring Initiatives

Denise Mashmasarmi, M.S., Regis College / The Center / February 02, 2022

Regis College delivers on its commitment to support first-generation and BIPOC students.

Inclusive excellence is the cornerstone of the legacy and charism of Regis College’s founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. The university strives to create an environment in which each member of the community can develop a sense of belonging, diversity is championed, and identities are celebrated.

One program that has elevated those efforts is the Partners in Excellence Mentoring program (PIE). Launched in 2019, it serves incoming first-year and transfer students who identify as first-generation and/or BIPOC, with a focus on increasing overall retention and graduation rates for this important population.

Through personalized mentoring experiences, PIE students receive additional support as they acclimate to the campus community and build a sense of belonging.

Starting my first year of college was extremely intimidating. I felt extremely alone because I'm the first of my family to go to college. I couldn't help but to feel at a disadvantage or that I didn’t belong. The PIE program has given me the tools to navigate life at Regis. PIE helps me connect to resources I wouldn’t otherwise have known existed. It is inspiring to see faculty and staff in higher education who are first-gen and/or people of color and to see student leaders like my peer mentor who look like me.

The program provides first-year and transfer students with a peer mentor who is an upper-level student. Additionally, each peer mentor is paired with a staff, faculty, or graduate-level professional. This provides a more holistic approach where students can make connections, feel seen, and know they have support from those in their community.

Through structured interactions such as a one-credit fall course, monthly large group programming for all participants, and unstructured interactions with mentors, first-year and upper-level students participating in the program establish meaningful relationships that increase their engagement in and out of the classroom and contribute positively to their retention at Regis.

The program was piloted in Fall 2019 and has withstood the impact of the pandemic. The connections that students have developed with the program is demonstrated during each peer mentor recruiting season, as about 60% of peer mentors have gone through the program. 80% of participants have also expressed satisfaction with their experience in the program, and 88% would recommend it to other students.

Partners in Excellence is a collaboration between the Center for Inclusive Excellence and Division of Student Affairs. The program is evaluated regularly to ensure that the original goal and purpose is being fulfilled, which is to be a space for first-generation and BIPOC students to feel welcome and supported throughout their academic journey.

For more information on Regis College’s approach, please visit their website here.