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The Bayer Association of Graduate Students Pilots a New Program to Mentor Undergraduate Students

by Anna Vietmeier and William King

The Bayer Association of Graduate Students (BAGS), a student organization for graduate students in the Bayer School, launched a new mentorship program this Spring (2021). The BAGS Graduate-Undergraduate Mentorship program pairs graduate students with undergrads to provide individualized near-peer mentors. Our main objective is for the mentors in the program to serve as an approachable resource for undergraduate students, to answer questions about succeeding as an undergrad, and support undergrads as they approach graduation. As graduate students, we have recently walked similar paths, allowing us to help pave the way through the pressures and challenges of undergrad and help guide students’ transition to post-grad life. For undergraduate students, the program offers a semi-professional, low-stakes relationship unique from other resources on campus.

Through the BAGS mentorship program, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to remain connected with the people I look up to. My mentor made himself available when I needed him most – from essential Target runs to graduate school advice – and for that I’m grateful to have participated in the program.  This program was especially needed during the pandemic so it’s nice to see the graduate students stepping up to help us undergrads.” – Sumer Jasmine, Senior undergraduate biological sciences student in the 1st cohort of the mentorship program.

So far, students from biology, chemistry, and pharmacy have participated in the program. Our first cohort included 19 mentors and 21 mentees. Mentors and mentees are intentionally matched based on experiences, interests, personality, and career goals, with the understanding that everyone can bring something a little different to the table. Mentors and mentees generally meet up to twice a month, for approximately an hour. Meetings between mentors and mentees can take many shapes and forms depending on what fits the relationship, the mentee’s needs, and the mentor’s experiences. It can be a Zoom meeting, grabbing a coffee, or grocery shopping together. Some mentors can offer advice on being part of the workforce before returning to academia, while others may have transitioned straight from undergrad to graduate school. Either way, the program is designed to serve as an intentional networking relationship with an approachable professional. In practice, this can be another set of eyes on personal statements for medical school and graduate school, someone to edit your CV or resume, or someone to practice interview questions with. Mentors can also serve as a point of contact to connect mentees with other resources provided within or even outside Duquesne. Really, the options are endless and are tailored to fit the relationship and student’s needs.

So why participate? It’s a great addition to your CV and a wonderful opportunity for mentors to reach out a hand and support the next generation. It’s a chance to step into a role and provide the support to a student that you wish you could have had. For undergraduate students, their mentor can be someone to talk to and ask questions about topics they may be reluctant to ask in other professional settings. It’s also an opportunity to discover questions you didn’t even know you should ask. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, or have comments, suggestions, and/or questions, please contact program coordinators Anna Vietmeier vietmeiera1@duq.edu or Will King kingw@duq.edu.

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