A great match

by Catalina Myers  |   


Darick Howard was excited when he received an email for a new opportunity, Seawolf Mentor, a peer-to-peer mentoring program designed to provide support for all UAA students. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

When Nichaela Beardsley, a student in the dental hygiene program, signed up for Seawolf Mentor last spring and was matched with her mentor, Darrick Howard, a history major, she was a little skeptical. Mostly because when she searched for him on social media sites, he was nowhere to be found.

“Everyone’s on Facebook, right?” said Beardsley. Everyone apparently except for Howard, who says he prefers to have one-on-one in-person interactions with people and has skipped the whole “social media thing.”

Beardsley said when she first received the email about Seawolf Mentor, it piqued her interest, especially since she had put her education on hold for a few years. At the time of the signing up, she thought it was a university requirement. Although she’s been pleasantly surprised at how much she’s used this new resource and reached out to Howard. She said she especially appreciates that it’s a real person on the other side of her texts and phone calls when asking for help.

“I feel like our match up has been really awesome and effective., hHe’s really helped me out with a lot of things.”

UAA launched Seawolf Mentor, a program hosted through the Mentor Collective, a nonprofit organization that runs mentorship and peer mentorship programs for colleges and universities nationwide, last May. Originally, the program was meant to solely focus on incoming freshmen and first-time students. However, given the current health crisis, the program will be open to all students for the fall semester, according to Claudia Lampman, vice provost for Student Success.

“It’s a way to connect students who are like one another in their interests or backgrounds,” said Lampman. “I think that connecting students in whatever we can is really important, particularly our first-time students.”

The program’s goal is to help connect students and create a sense of belonging and community while attending UAA — something that Lampman stresses is incredibly important especially now since students are not regularly coming to campus and do not have as many opportunities to make connections.

Howard, who has been mentoring Beardsley over the summer, said this is what appealed most to him when he received the email about the new program last spring.

“I thought this was too good of an experience to pass up, I just want to get to know people, to interact with people and really to help people succeed,” Howard said. He said he’s watched classmates struggle through their schooling and inevitably drop out of classes for various reasons and feels like if he can provide extra support to help someone stay in school and finish their university education, he’s all about it. “I just want students who are kind of older like myself, to get a lot of experiences, to feel safe and welcome and to know that it’s really a fun place to be — it’s a good environment and atmosphere.”

Valerie Robideaux, director of First-Year Advising and Student Success, said that incoming students are invited to participate in the program when they sign up for classes for the fall semester.; however, any UAA student can join at any time. Once they enroll in the program, the Mentor Collective follows up with students to begin the matching process. 

According to the Mentor Collective, since UAA launched the program, 78 mentors have completed training and a total of 273 students have been matched with mentors. Many mentors take on more than one mentee and Howard said that he’s happy to provide his expertise with many students, he feels like the more the better because to him Seawolf Mentor is “win-win.”

Students and mentors are matched based on answers from a Mentor Collective questionnaire when signing up for the program, which focuses on details like a student's major, their interests and goals. Mentees are then matched with a mentor who has voluntarily signed up to provide guidance and expertise and who answered similarly in a mentor-specific questionnaire. The Mentor Collective then provides contact information through their texting platform, allowing mentor and mentee to schedule sessions once they’re matched. 

Lampman said that she thinks this new resource is useful for students at any point in their collegiate journey and at any time. 

“It doesn't totally matter where they are in school because it's a mentoring program that isn't tied to their classes or a class schedule,” said Lampman. “What we really want to do is connect students.”

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or signing up as a mentee, head to Seawolf Mentor to learn more and sign up.

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