Reach Academic Mentors in COVID-19 times are those who ‘improve the intellectual and academic ability, and nurtures the emotional well-being of learners through individualised, holistic support.’ (Stork and Walker, 2015)
Who are REACH Academic Mentors?
Reach Academic Mentors are members of teaching staff at MTU, given both time allowance and training, to provide an extra layer of positive learning support during these different and challenging times to an allotted cohort of students.
Their role includes offering a human connection to students during emergency remote teaching. As MTU has such a diverse cohort of students across its many campuses, Academic Mentors, following training and with support from the Reach Initiative Co-ordinating Team, are encouraged to adopt their own tailored approach in supporting their mentees. These diverse approaches are shared with the wider community of Academic Mentors at regular professional development workshops, informal weekly meet-ups, and through our online Reach Initiative discussion boards and resources – thus building a Reach community informing the ongoing enhancement of Reach for all.
"Personally, I like knowing that you are there as a go to. I’m not finding any issues with the semester so far but if I do I will contact you. Thank you for what you’re doing for us though. It’s nice to know there’s support there.”
Year 1 Mentee
What Academic Mentors Do?
An academic mentor, in the context of the Reach Initiative, as a direct response to COVID-19 challenges for 2020/2021, has elements of the following depending on student cohort, department need, etc:
- WORKING directly with a group of 50 students to very intentionally build relationship and connectedness, in this new virtual learning world, to enable helpful conversations that both support and challenge
- FOCUSING on academic development and engagement, e.g. supporting study skills, reassuring, referring to Academic Learning Centre, Academic Success Coaching, Library, etc
- PROVIDING appropriate personal welfare support by listening, reassuring, informing, providing insight and referring
- KNOWING about MTU services and use coaching/mentoring skills to refer students as appropriate to additional supports and assistance
- HELPING students, in a time of deep uncertainty, to navigate their learning in a different environment
"I was able to talk to one student for over an hour on Zoom. I don’t think that would have been possible without this initiative. The talk meant so much to the student. He was putting himself under so much pressure.”
Academic Mentor, Business
Academic Mentors are working in collaboration with Heads of Department, teaching teams, AnSEO – The Student Engagement Office, Teaching and Learning Unit and other MTU services as needed.
Reach Academic Mentors are receiving ongoing support and training to develop coaching and mentoring skills and to stay updated on all other MTU student services and supports that they may need to refer students to.
The training and support interventions have the added value of enabling the Reach Academic Mentoring team to raise awareness of any themes that they see emerging for their cohorts of students. This type of communication loop enables academic departments and student services to respond quickly to issues as they are emerging.