For most students, coming to a four-year university can be an overwhelming experience. There are many aspects of college life students must get used to, including meeting new people, developing healthy study habits and eventually networking for a career after graduation.
Mentor Tech helps Texas Tech students make these adjustments through different mentoring programs with a multitude of faculty, staff and graduate students around Tech’s campus. These mentors help students make adjustments to the university.
“Mentor Tech basically stands between the entrance and the exit of the university,” Cory Powell, director of Mentor Tech, said. “We want (the mentors) to make it easier for these students to make that adjustment and make it difficult for students to fail. That’s their academic, social and cultural adjustments (to the university).”
Powell said there have been more than 3,200 students who participated through the Mentor Tech program in the last 15 years. On average, Mentor Tech graduates about 100 students a year. There are 1,100 people involved in Mentor Tech currently, combining mentors and protégés.
According to the organization’s website, students who participate as protégés must be students at Tech or the Health Sciences Center and must commit to participating in the program for a year.
Mentor Tech provides different workshops to help these students with the adjustments they have to make, Powell said. The workshops are geared toward academic as well as career development.
But, the main part of Mentor Tech is the relationships the mentors and the students create during their time in the program, Powell said.
“Once they are in, we try and match them up with a faculty or staff member, or a graduate student (whom) they share interests with, whether it is academic or career aspirations or cultural things,” Powell said. “Students and the mentors get to tell us what they want in terms of match in terms of gender and of culture and other factors.”
Once students and mentors are matched together, each pair will communicate weekly and meet face-to-face at least twice a month, he said.
According to the Mentor Tech website, faculty, staff and graduate students who want to participate as mentors must serve for a full year and can serve as mentor for up to two protégés.
Powell said the staff of Mentor Tech look for certain qualities in mentors, and recruiting for mentors every year starts in April.
“We target specific groups and specific numbers of faculty members or specific individuals that we know we need from particular disciplines,” Powell said. “We want to make sure that those individuals know they have a voice and have an opportunity to inspire other students. We send letters and emails out to faculty, staff and graduate students encouraging them to participate.”
Through these workshops and mentoring programs, Mentor Tech aims to address all the needs that the students encounter in their time at Tech, Powell said.
“In 2002, we looked at the reasons why the students said they would leave the university,” Powell said. “Basically, (a few) reasons emerged: They did not feel academically supported. They did not feel that they could handle it financially. They didn’t like Lubbock, which we could not do anything about. But, really the goal was to get them adjusted to help them feel supported and do what they want to do on campus.”
When Mentor Tech was created in 2002, Tech was interested in increasing the retention of African-American and Hispanic students, Powell said. Mentor Tech was created to assist with that retention.
Powell said most of the students in the Mentor Tech program are first-generation college students. This mentoring program is important for these students because they do not have anyone to look up to in their families when it comes to higher education.
“These students do not have anyone in their immediate families who they can look to, who have traversed through the paths of higher education,” Powell said. “Having someone who is available to answer questions, who understands the disappointments and hardships that you encounter, who knows what it is like to be you and to help deal with that is helpful.”
Jeremy Cortez, college adviser for the Talkington School of Young Women Leaders and a former member of Mentor Tech, said when he was a student at Tech, Mentor Tech gave him the opportunity to meet other students in his situation.
“It was nice to see minority students at Texas Tech who came from a first-generation perspective just like myself and to be able to talk to them and understand that we were going through the same issues,” Cortez said.
A native of Lubbock, Cortez said he got to meet people from different backgrounds going through the same situations as he.
“It was great to see and meet other Hispanic and African-American students who wanted to improve their education and graduate from a four-year university,” Cortez said.
He said he would not be as successful as he is now without the assistance Mentor Tech provided him with. Cortez was given the academic skills and the leadership skills to succeed at Tech as well as in the outside world.
When Cortez was a part of Mentor Tech, he said he started the Mentor Tech Student Organization. This student organization is still an integral part of the Mentor Tech program today.
“Mentor Tech can only do so much because it is a department,” Cortez said. “There was a lot of student activities that we wanted to be student led. One of the big things is we wanted the (Student Government Association) to recognize Mentor Tech, so we could get some funding from them and provide opportunities for our students. The only way we could do that is start a student organization.”
Mentor Tech Student Organization is still a critical part of the Mentor Tech program today. Cortez said it is something he left behind from his time at Mentor Tech.
Powell said if had participated in a program like Mentor Tech when he attended college, he would have graduated sooner than he did.
Mentor Tech gives students a place to be comfortable, Powell said.
“We all have bumped into the infamous ‘Tech Shuffle’ on campus, where you feel like you have been bumped around from this place to that place,” Powell said. “Having someone who makes that process easier, someone who can help you adjust and get you the resources that you need and feel supported. That helps to keep them.”
Mentor Tech is the largest collegiate mentoring program in the country, Powell said. During its last search, the organization could not find a larger collegiate mentoring program.
“The program we do is really comprehensive in trying to get the students what they need,” Powell said. “We are always trying to look for something else. We just do what we think is the best and try and do what is right, and I think the accolades and the growth speaks for itself. For us to be able to be pioneers in terms of mentoring is very crucial.”
Having a mentoring program like this is important in today’s age, he said. This program speaks to the diversity in the country.
“For Texas Tech having a program like Mentor Tech and having a desire to reach out to students and making them feel welcome and be successful is our responsibility as an institution,” Powell said.