The Pomona College Mentoring Program

While I have yet to officially decide my future career path, I have been leaning more and more towards becoming a neuroscience professor.  I’ve known for a long time that I enjoy teaching others, but it wasn’t until I came to Pomona that I realized teaching neuroscience was something I could really see myself making a career out of.  When the opportunity came up to become a genetics mentor first semester of my sophomore year, I sprung on the opportunity.

The mentoring program at Pomona is, in my opinion, one of the most important and helpful resources Pomona has to offer.  Because we don’t have any graduate students here, it is up to other undergrads to help and support other students.  While each department structures their mentoring program slightly differently, the purpose of the program is the same throughout; the brand new Quantitative Skill Center is the central organization office for the entire mentoring program. Something that makes the mentoring program special is how approachable mentors are.  Because mentors are fellow undergraduate students, often in my grade or just year or two older, it’s much easier and comfortable to ask them a question.  While I know this all may sound quite biased considering I am a mentor myself,  I have also been mentored many, many times, and am beyond thankful for the advice and skills I have learned from them.

First semester of my freshman year, I was taking several difficult classes and often had trouble even starting the homework.  While Pomona professors are some of the most approachable people I have ever met, they don’t live on campus and are often busy, so they can’t always help.  Since mentors are other students who live on campus, they often can hold mentor sessions on weekday nights before the homework is due.  Since most mentors have recently taken the class for which they are mentoring, the material is fresh in their minds, and they can often provide invaluable study tips.

When I structure my own mentor sessions, I think about how I can best help the students to succeed.  For genetics, which is a problem set based class, my co-mentor and I often had the students volunteer to come up to the whiteboard and solve the problem for the class.  For cell biology, a more conceptual class, I let the students work through problems or read through their notes and when they are confused on a concept we go over it as a group.

For sure my favorite part about being a mentor is being able to give students the confidence required to continue to work hard and succeed. I love to hear from my students that a concept we went over in a mentor session was on the midterm or that my study trick helped a student to remember the steps of the TCA cycle.

Every time I come back from a mentor session, I become more and more sure of my plan to become a professor.  Instilling a passion for biology in other students and helping them to succeed is totally something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.