By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ‘23
People are oftentimes surprised when I say I don’t like working in teams, it’s strange coming from someone who frequently does group activities. This is because I grew up in competitive environments. My high school ranked the students with the top 25 GPAs, and many students in my class invested time into tracking who applied and got accepted into what school. It was a cutthroat and tense environment that made it hard to celebrate accomplishments or encourage others to “succeed” (I put quotation marks because success is subjective).
Also, I was too scared to let others know I was confused. You know that one kid in class who always raises their hand to ask questions, and you kind of roll your eyes because “another one?!” and their questions are kind of legit, but you just want class to keep going?? Yeah, I’m that kid. In high school, I felt terribly embarrassed for being the curious questioner. So, I became the kid who lingered after class to dump all my questions on my teacher. It wasn’t helpful at all because I’d miss most of lecture trying to understand what I initially misunderstood, and I’d have to catch up on my own after class. I knew for a fact I didn’t want to repeat that in college, which is why Pomona was a graaaaannnnddddd academic fit for me. Pomona wants its students to be academically curious and questions are always encouraged. Outside of the classroom, I could go to office hours and/or mentor sessions without feeling like I was interrupting a period of peace post instruction. Which brings me to my main point: mentor sessions.
My first year I had mentor sessions for all my classes (except my first-year writing seminar). Mentor sessions are periods, usually one to two hours, outside of class to ask questions and/or work on assignments with classmates and mentors. Most courses have two mentors, these are students who previously took the course and did well in it. They encourage collaboration between classmates and create comfortable spaces for cluelessness. Most of my mentor sessions were on Sundays, and I’d organize my day around that. A few students in my class would gather for brunch and we’d chill and chat. Then, we’d work a bit in study space before heading to our mentor session.
This type of collaborative group work was rare in high school. For starters, much of high school was, “hey um… do you have the answer for number 47? Cool can I have it?” In college I heard a lot more of, “did you figure out number 47? ‘Okay, I don’t get it, can you explain to me?” College mentor sessions were win, win, win!! We were working together, we weren’t scared of helping each other (because then oohhh noooo they might have a higher GPA than me), and we were genuinely understanding the material. Also, if the dialogue was something more like, “I have no idea” “welp… I don’t either” then we’d have our mentor right there in the room to help us out :). That whole ~ I have everything together and figured out ~ façade was nonexistent in mentor sessions, which I appreciated.
Fast forward a year where I mentored for Professor Goto’s intro psychological science course, I took it my first semester of college. One of the reasons I wanted to be a mentor was to recreate the collaborative classroom community I’ve experienced.
There were two other mentors for Professor Goto’s class (shoutout Daisy and Cogie). Unfortunately, we didn’t get Professor Goto to be Professor Utonium, but us mentors had fun coordinating! It was quite rewarding to see the faces of our mentees light up when we all turned our cameras off. In the last mentor session of the semester, I noticed that all the mentees were laughing and disappearing off camera until one of them asked if I had a navy-blue top to match. I instantly ran upstairs to color coordinate. Much love to (left to right, top to bottom) Jenny, Schuyler, Griffin, Taryn, Amarachi, Diana, and the rest of section one psych!!!!!! Having a mentor and being a mentor, it’s a full circle of give and get.