Online Peer Mentoring:

Staying Connected from

Orientation to Welcome Week

Katie Partin, M.Ed.

Program Coordinator, Sr.

Office of First Year Initiatives

University of Louisville

(502) 852-8097


Chelsea McKendree

CAPS Leader

Office of First Year Initiatives

University of Louisville

Brittany Blake, M.Ed.

Project Coordinator

Office of First Year Initiatives

University of Louisville

(502) 852-3125


Welcome Week




Cider & Cocoa Carts

Late Night Exam Breakfasts

FYI Programs

CAPS Leader Mentor Program





CAPS Philosophy

Diversity and community

Traditions, expectations, opportunities

Individual development and well-being

Meet, develop, and maintain relationships with

students, faculty, and staff

Why create a summer

mentor program?

• Summer Orientation

o May/June

o Welcome Week feel

• Academic Orientation

Courses (AOCs)

o Decentralized

o Mandatory

Grounding a Solution

in Research

• Student Departure Theory (Tinto)

• Timing is everything (Kuh, et al.)

• Importance of peer support in transition

(Upcraft, Gardner, & Assoc.)

• Student commitment to the institution

(Wallace et al.)

So…why create a summer

mentor program?

• To assist first year students in:

o Bridging the gap

o Forging & strengthening connections

o Learning more about UofL

o Easing their transition

o Integrating earlier into academic/social

(i.e. college) life

• Summer


• Postcard


• Welcome Week promo

o Meet Your Mentor Lunch

CAPS Leader Mentor Program


• Mentors

• Platform (Blackboard)

Program Structure

• Typical Week

• Meet Your Mentor Lunch

• Assessment


Application & Selection

• Recruit from existing mentor programs

• Online application; interviews; selection

• Paid ~ $252 for the 7-week program

o At your institution: Don’t have the funds?

• For credit

• Co-curricular credit

• Volunteer

• Assign 1 CAPS-L to 2 AOC sections

o Average course: 25-30 students

o Try to assign like-majored Leaders with courses

Mentor (3 hours)

• Review:

o Program

o Manual

o UofL resources

• Expectations

• Mentoring 101


• Group work

o Tips from returners

o Example scenarios

Technology (2 hours)

• “How to” in Bb

o Set up shell

o Send email/post in DB

o Run reports

• Film intro video



• Utilize existing resources (Blackboard)

o Use email & Discussion Board functions

o House resources on CAPS-L tab

o Give CAPS-L instructor level access

• Academic Orientation Courses (AOC)

o Almost all incoming students (~95%) enrolled in

an AOC with Blackboard shell

• Facebook (optional)

Program Structure

Weekly Themed Content

Week 1: Introductions

Week 2: Civic

Week 3: Academic

Week 4: Personal

Week 5: Social

Week 6: Other Mentor Programs at UofL

Week 7: Final Words of Wisdom

Typical Week of a CAPS-L


• Email

o Send

• Group Email (Mon/Tues)

• Cardinal Clue Email (Wed/Thurs)

o Respond

o Promptly to any questions

• Extras

o Weeks 1 & 2

• Blackboard instructions

• Facebook contact (optional)

o Week 3

• Personalized emails to non-participants

o BinC integration

Typical Week of a CAPS-L

Blackboard & Administrative Tasks

• Blackboard

o Top 5 List

o Resource List

o “Where at UofL?” Video Contest

o Discussion Board Activity

• Complete administrative tasks

o Usage reports

o Contact log

o Timesheet

o Mid-point check-in

Meet Your Mentor Lunch

Welcome Week

Supporting the CAPS-L

• June

o Refresher sessions

o Early prep and check

• July – August

o Program managed by graduate intern

• Administrative tasks

• Updates and announcements for CAPS-L

• Mid-point check-in

o Assisted by undergraduate student (CAPS-L)

• Communication “checklist”


Student Participant Survey

What influenced first year students to

participate in the CAPS-L program?

• Learning UofL technology

• Staying connected to UofL

• Meeting other students in their section

• Feeling it’s an important part of their transition


Student Participant Survey

What are first year students getting out

of the CAPS-L program?

• Increased knowledge of campus and

community resources

• Better understanding of CAPS aspects at UofL

• Making a positive connection with a CAPS-L

• Feeling more prepared to start UofL

“It helped me transition to

UofL life over the summer.”

Connecting to Research

Timing is Everything

“It was almost like a preview of campus

before you actually got there

which made the transition easier.”

“It was very informative and helped me

transition very quickly and efficiently

into college life.”

“It allowed me to prepare for

college by my CAPS Leader

sending emails to me about

any issues she faced as an

incoming college freshman

and a lot of the issues I could

relate with and it made me

feel more comfortable coming

to college.”

Connecting to Research

Importance of Peer Connections

“My CAPS leader was very helpful. I

could ask him anything and he knew

the answer or would refer me to

someone who did. The connection

with someone who has been through

it all helped me prepare for college. It

calmed my nerves and made me feel

comfortable. I enjoyed the program

and having the opportunity to have

someone to help guide me.”

Connecting to Research

Institutional Support

“The CAPS Leader program

showed that UofL really does care

for its students.”

“My CAPS leader was so helpful!

She answered all of my questions,

and was so friendly. She was also

very knowledgeable about campus,

and organizations! Loved it!”

“With the program, UofL is being

proactive and there’s a feeling that

people on campus are waiting for the

new students to arrive.”


Student Participant Survey

What areas of the CAPS-L program

could be improved? (according to first year students)

• Didn’t understand how the program worked

• Didn’t make strong connection with CAPS-L or


• Information: not useful or too general/repetitive

• Contact from CAPS-L: too much or too little

• Confusion over which mentor to ask


CAPS Leader Survey

What are the mentors getting out of the

CAPS-L program?

• Overwhelming majority indicated:

o Being a CAPS-L was a positive experience

o Strengthened mentor skills

o Learned something new about UofL

o Made a connection they plan to continue after

program ends

o Made a positive connection with faculty/staff


CAPS Leader Survey

What worked for the mentors?

• Emails

o Making them individualized and fun emails

o Using interesting icebreakers

o Replying promptly

• Content

o Personal experiences

o Being consistent and honest

o Top 5 lists

o “Where at UofL?” video contest

o Intro videos

• Meet Your Mentor Lunch


CAPS Leader Survey

What was challenging for the mentors?

• Knowing academic unit-specific info

(especially for those working outside major)

• Unresponsive mentees

• Making a REAL connection over email

Lessons Learned


o Utilize existing resources

o Pre-load course material into Bb

o Great opportunity for a graduate intern

• Mentees

o Be aware of incoming students’ familiarity with


• Mentors

o Realistic expectations for participation

o Hold summer refresher sessions

o Encourage creativity and personal experiences

Future of Our Program

Changes for 2012

• Shorten the program by 1 week

o Take out week 6: “Other Mentor Programs at UofL”

• Require 1 less email a week

o Combine Group and Cardinal Clue email

o Utilize the “Announcement” function in Bb

• Make discussion board optional

• Change BinC integration strategy

• Make adjustments for A&S Peer Advisors

Creating Your Program

What would you need?


o Online platform

o Coordinator or intern

o Content

• Mentors

o Buy-in from other mentor programs

• Money

• Flexibility

• Patience!

Katie Partin

Thank You!

Program Coordinator, Sr.

Office of First Year Initiatives

University of Louisville

(502) 852-8097


Brittany Blake

Project Coordinator

Office of First Year Initiatives

University of Louisville

(502) 852-3125

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