Student mentors from the University's Suffolk Life Mentor Scheme presented to an audience of academics, professional staff, and students at Solent University’s annual Student Retention and Achievement Conference.
Over 150 people attended the conference, including Amatey Doku, Vice President of the National Union of Students, who provided the keynote presentation on BAME student experience and achievement in higher education.
The University of Suffolk was invited to present a workshop on this year’s theme ‘what makes a successful student? The student perspective’. Three of this year’s Suffolk Life Mentors Abigail, Fiona, and Karen provided an overview of the Suffolk Life Mentor Scheme, and how student mentoring can bring a multitude of benefits to all students.
During the presentation, Suffolk Life Mentor Fiona argued that having a student mentor can make a huge difference when it comes to starting university and settling in. She said: ‘Starting university can be daunting and full of questions, questions you are sometimes embarrassed to ask staff, but not students’. Karen noted that one of her mentees said she would not be at university if it was not for Karen’s mentoring.
The presentation also highlighted the positives on being a student mentor. In job interviews, Karen has been recognised for her mentor experience by employers. Karen also feels that mentoring has encouraged her to think reflectively about her own journey at Suffolk. For Abigail, the experience of being a Suffolk Life Mentor has helped her think about her future, and how she now wants to work in education.
Presenting at a conference of this size was a new experience for our Suffolk Life Mentors. On reflection, they have learned that their time at Suffolk has given them the confidence to network with academics from other universities, and present their ideas and experiences to a large room of professionals.
Fiona also adds that ‘one of the things that stood out was a discussion on how students and staff see achievement. Many students just focus on grades; however, staff also felt that soft skills and a sense of growth is also important. It made me see my own experience as not just academic but re-evaluate the journey I have been on.’
Student Life Adviser, Adam Devine, who coordinates the Scheme, commented that ‘it has been fantastic for our students to experience and present at a conference. Our yellow t-shirts ensured that we networked with a lot of colleagues in higher education, and shared ideas on student mentoring. We are proud of all our Suffolk Life Mentors and the benefits it can provide to students.
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