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New Grad Success Program eases transition to university world-wide

Through the NGSP, new UCC grads can get guidance from Old Boys who are attending the same institution or studying the same subject.
The program launched in 2021 under the aegis of the UCC Wellbeing Committee and the NGSP Task Force. This fall, the program boasted 33 pairs, including alumni who are mentoring more than one graduate.

“We try to get the perfect pairing of the same school and the same program,” says Amanda Vieira-Hasz, UCC’s community relations coordinator. “We hand-pick the mentors. Everyone who requests a mentor gets one.”

Vieira-Hasz notes that while mentor commitment is only for the mentee’s first year of university, some pairs continue to keep in touch informally. Both mentees and mentors receive training prior to entering the program. Vieira-Hasz and Leanne Gardner, community relations manager, touch base with the mentors throughout the year, reminding them about key touchpoints, such as prior to exam week and during Reading Week. 

Mentor Dylan Zhao ’19 is a master of science candidate in the Faculty of Translational Medicine at Queen’s University. “I knew I had the capacity to share and disseminate what I had learned throughout undergrad in a meaningful manner,” he says. 

Zhao paired this year with Daniel McDonald ’23, a first-year pre-med student. 

“We met up when Daniel got to campus and had a great conversation over lunch,” says Zhao. “It’s simply about sharing your experiences for the benefit of others. I genuinely enjoy seeing someone else succeed and avoid unpleasant pitfalls.

“I asked Daniel how I could be of most help and we centred on academics. He’s focused on maintaining his average for medical school, so we talked about work-life balance, how best to study for specific courses, and how to navigate the added attention of his program. He has a good head on his shoulders.”

Since their initial meeting, the pair have largely communicated via text because their lives are busy. 

“I already see a lot of benefits to the mentorship,” says McDonald. “Dylan knows lots of professors. He’s helping me connect to research opportunities and advising me on how to approach the faculty members. I’m glad to have the extra help navigating Queen’s.”

Will Hanna ’16 is a mentor to Savar Suri ’23, a first-year student at Sciences Po in Paris studying social sciences. Hanna spent his own first year of university there before transferring to McGill, where he’s currently attending law school.

Says Suri, “A lot of my friends were going to the U.S for university, where they knew what to expect, but that wasn’t the case for me. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived. I was in a new country and I don’t speak French very well. It was useful to have a mentor with a similar high school experience who knew what I could expect and could guide me.

“UCC has a timeline that suggests six official meetings; the idea is to keep in touch.”

Hanna says that listening is a critical skill for a mentor.

“I’m at the stage of my academic development where I’ve learned things and jumped through enough hurdles that I have a lot to say, but when you’re in a mentoring relationship, you need to sit back and listen. You need to determine what’s important to a mentee at a given point in time and not overwhelm them with information they don’t need.”

Kene Ochuba ’21 has this to say about the impetus behind his NGSP mentoring role at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  

“Coming to the U.S. from UCC was a big adjustment, and having people I could talk to who had been there before was so important, especially as I had never been to North Carolina. Leading into my first year I was able to speak to a UCC alum who had just graduated from UNC and his wisdom and advice was invaluable. Therefore, I knew that I wanted to be able to pay that forward and help another student in their transition to UNC, being so far away from home. It makes me think of UCC’s assembly song, Never Walk Alone.”

To get involved, email lgardner@ucc.on.ca.
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