Barry McNamara  |   Published November 06, 2019

Building a ‘Relationship Bridge’

Students Anna Brown and Chandler Claude discuss the power of peer mentoring at conference of Illinois colleges.

Students Anna Brown '20, left and Chandler Claude '20 were joined by Director of Multicul... Students Anna Brown '20, left and Chandler Claude '20 were joined by Director of Multicultural Services Regina Johnson, center, at the 2019 Associated Colleges of Illinois Fall Conference.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College students Anna Brown ’20 and Chandler Claude ’20 of Evergreen Park, Ill., were among the presenters at the 2019 Associated Colleges of Illinois Fall Conference in Lisle, Ill., on Nov. 1.

The students spoke on “Peer Mentoring and How It Impacts Our Students and Campus” as part of the conference’s student engagement track. More than 170 higher education officials from the ACI’s 27 member colleges and universities attended the daylong meeting.

Brown and Claude were accompanied by Monmouth Director of Multicultural Services Regina Johnson, who is the coordinator of the peer mentoring grant that Monmouth receives from ACI.

ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program builds a “relationship bridge” from low-income and first-generation students and students of color to their mentors, the campus community, and the College’s social, academic, financial and multicultural support services. This relationship provides an early warning system that can anticipate and address the unique challenges these students face, before those challenges derail a college career.

“Our annual cohort of students is 12 total, consisting of 10 mentees – five men, five women – and two mentors,” said Johnson. “We work together as a team to provide campus activities, support and guidance to the cohort for their entire freshman year.”

Brown and Claude meet individually with the mentees weekly, and they also meet weekly with Johnson to provide updates.

Part of the program takes a “you don’t know what you don’t know” approach, educating the first-year students on topics ranging from finances to communication/social skills to mental and physical health. The program also seeks to build students’ emotional intelligence.

During their presentation, the two Monmouth students spoke about resiliency, each offering their personal journeys. Brown was a mentee in the first cohort of the grant in fall 2016, so she has experienced the program from both ends of the mentoring spectrum.

Other tracks at the ACI conference focused on advancement, finance, and public relations and marketing, with Monmouth staff members presenting in advancement and PR, both on the subject of the College’s successful annual Scots Day of Giving. Also presenting from Monmouth were: acting Vice President of Development and College Relations Hannah Maher, Associate Director of the Monmouth Fund Jennifer Armstrong and Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Duane Bonifer.

Founded in 1952, ACI strengthens the state’s network of private colleges and universities through new sources of support for independent higher education. Since its founding, ACI has provided more than $70 million in scholarship support to member institutions.

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