Tiger Transition Team Eases Newcomers To College Life

Cameron Young, mentor in the Tiger Transition Team rehearses with his mentee, Richard Coleman, for a choir concert.
Cameron Young, mentor in the Tiger Transition Team rehearses with his mentee, Richard Coleman, for a choir concert.

By Jordan Walden |LSU Student

The Tiger Transition Team, a fledgling program adopted by the First Year Experience Office at LSU, aims to help freshmen ease into college life by assigning student mentors, who must be at least sophomores, have a 2.75 GPA and be accepted into their senior colleges.

Cameron Young, vocal performance junior, joined the Tiger Transition Team (TTT) as a mentor at the end of his sophomore year. Young received an e-mail from TTT asking for volunteers. He said he immediately wished he would have had such an opportunity as a freshman.

Young said he is glad that he joined the TTT, because he has gained a friend in his mentee, Richard Coleman. Young and Coleman are music majors from Dallas, Texas.

Randy Fontenot, assistant director of First Year Experience, says mentors normally are matched based on a profile of backgrounds and interests. "The most important categories we take into account are mentors' and mentees' majors, hometowns, and interests."

TTT mentors must attend training seminars where they participate in "sticky situations exercises." Other than checking in with their mentees at least once every three months, the TTT does not impose strict guidelines on mentors, says Desmond Robinson, higher education administration graduate student with First Year Experience Mentors are simply "go-to" people if mentees have problems.

"I don't really follow the Tiger Transition Team guidelines or attend activities," Young said, "I mainly give Richard advice on singing, the School of Music, and etiquette."

When First Year Experience instituted the team in 2009, it targeted first- generation students, those without relatives who have graduated from college. Thirty mentors and 50 mentees participated in the program's inaugural year. Currently, the program has 230 mentors and more than 400 mentees.

Most mentors and mentees have a good experience with the transition team. "We have received powerful testimonials from participants," said Fontenot, "but some have not been so positive."

"It feels good playing an active role in helping others," said Young. "The major benefit of being a mentor was making a good friend." Young's experience has been positive, but he feels the program has a ways to go.

Fontenot said TTT is working to improve participants' experiences through a more rigorous training. "We found it was difficult to get more than 200 students together for a training session. This year we've offered multiple sessions including a weekend session," said Fontenot. TTT also improved their Community Moodle training course to provide mentors with more training information online.

Another challenge TTT has faced is parents signing up incoming students for the program without telling them or explaining the program to them. "To overcome this challenge, we have included a statement on the mentee application explaining that the student must confirm that participation," said Fontenot.

TTT recently found better ways to match mentors with mentees as well. The team recently began asking mentees if they would like to be matched academically or socially.

"This helps us decide whether to assign mentors with mentees based on major or a social organization," said Fontenot.