Westminster College will forgo the Alumni Mentoring Program (AMP) and the Gold to Grad program — the last two existing mentorship models on campus — after this year, replacing it with a campus-wide initiative that is available to every student.
The new program will be developed over the next year, launching in the Fall 2021 semester, according to Emily Tillett, program manager of student success and retention.
“[AMP] proved mentoring is a powerful experience and set an example of excellence — a foundation for the college to build upon,” Tillett said in an email announcement to students currently enrolled in AMP. “Each of you contributed and were part of something transformative. This expansion of mentoring to all of campus is a tribute to the relationships, experiences, and memories you each built.”
Tillett has been involved with AMP for the last three years as one of the coordinators who organized cohorts into monthly meetings — an aspect that will not be carried over into the new program. While she’s excited for an initiative that can reach a larger demographic, Tillett said she’s sad to see the benefits of the cohort community disappear.
“The community the students are building within their cohort and the skills that they’re learning in the cohort is a beautiful way to connect what the students are doing in their own personal lives and academically, as well as career-oriented,” Tillett told The Forum. “And it helps guide them in their relationship with their mentor. And vice versa. It’s just a nice symbiotic relationship.”
The plan to replace AMP and Gold to Grad has been in the works for years, with administration officials looking for ways to expand mentoring to all students. Although the details aren’t entirely fleshed out, the campus-wide program would create a “success team” for every student, according to Christie Fox, director of retention and student success.
“In our desire to expand this to everyone, we have to make some adjustments,” Fox told The Forum. “We hope that almost everyone will [opt in to the program].”
The new program is part of Westminster at 150, a strategic prioritization effort designed to generate enrollment growth at the college by amplifying “distinctive features of the Westminster student experience,” according to the school’s website.
Rather than operating through an application and interview process that AMP and Gold to Grad utilized to select students for cohorts, Fox said the new program would be open for every student to participate.
“There’s a lot of structure around AMP and the student-mentor relationship, and we don’t want to lose that,” Fox said. “But what we’re really trying to do is look at a program in which we can learn and apply those principles more broadly so that all students have the opportunity to have an alumni mentor.”
Each student will ideally have an admissions counselor, faculty adviser, peer mentor — and eventually an alumni mentor — as part of their support group. If the student chooses to pursue a mentorship relationship with an alum, they will also enroll in a specific course with assignments to provide a familiar structure.
The proposal has been met with some hesitancy from some former AMP attendees, particularly those who have served in both student and mentor roles. However, Emily Tillett — who helps direct the current mentorship program — said the new system will ideally utilize similar structures.
“I think the idea of every student having a mentor is really exciting,” Tillett said. “I don’t know enough about the new mentoring program and the structure to see if it will have some of the successful elements that […] make AMP really unique. It could, and I’m going to advocate for that.”