Faculty and staff mentor first-generation college students

Faculty and staff mentor first-generation college students

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Faculty and staff mentor first-generation college students

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez
University of Miami faculty and staff members have the opportunity to connect with first-generation college students to provide support through the Empower Me First mentorship program.

Navigating the course to a successful college experience can introduce unique challenges for first-generation undergraduate students—those who are the first in their family to attend college. At the University of Miami, faculty and staff members who were once first-generation college students and those who are continuing generation graduates, have the opportunity to connect with students to provide an additional measure of personal and academic support through the Empower Me First (EMF) mentorship program, facilitated by the Office of Academic Enhancement.

To learn more about the impact of the program, we spoke to faculty and staff members from across the University who shared their experience as an Empower Me First mentor.

What has been your biggest takeaway as an Empower Me First mentor?
The validation of targeted programming for our first-generation students has been the biggest takeaway from serving in my role as mentor. Through each conversation with my mentee(s) and anecdotes shared at events by other mentees in EMF, the need to serve our first-generation students is reinforced. While talented and resilient, being the first in one's family to navigate all that it is to be an undergraduate Miami Hurricane can be daunting. Enter EMF—a network, a compass.
—Paul Bongarzone, manager of advising, College of Arts and Sciences

I quickly realized that in this world of email and social media that face-to-face conversations are more important than ever. My mentee provided me with powerful insights about her experience and I always felt I came away better from each interaction.
Maryam Borrego, assistant vice president for public affairs, Office of the President

The ability to see the growth of my mentee has gifted me with time to reflect on my own goals while we both encourage one another to celebrate milestones.
Janisse Patino-Martinez, director, Human Resources and Communications

I am very pleased to see the commitment that the University has made to support the success of first-generation students. The Empower Me First program and the other programming supported by the Office of Academic Enhancement highlight the commitment to the success of  students and to promoting diversity and inclusion.
Karina Gattamorta, research associate professor, School of Nursing and Health Studies

What advice would you give to other faculty/staff who may be interested in becoming a mentor?
Being an Empower Me First mentor has fostered a community of colleagues across all campuses and functions. If you're a first-generation faculty/staff member and are looking to make a direct impact on the very students we serve, then this is the program for you. I would encourage colleagues interested to take the leap. You have so much knowledge, experiences, and coaching to offer and students who can really benefit from such a mentorship.
Janisse Patino-Martinez

Do it! Serving in EMF has been the most rewarding experience I have had as a professional at our University of Miami.
Paul Bongarzone

As a mentor you will be better for it, the experience will help you connect deeper to the student experience and make you a better advocate for students. Mentorship is critical to supporting the next generation of leaders.
—Maryam Borrego

As a first-generation graduate, what do you wish you knew during your time as a student?
I was a first-generation, low-income student, so I wish I had known about the financial and related resources available to me.
Paul Bongarzone

As a first-generation graduate, I wish I would have released all the anxiety I put on myself to "make it." I wish I would have known that there are so many career paths out there and that I would certainly find one that aligned with my values and objective to make an impact. I wish I had known to just trust the process, and that the best thing to do was to be exposed to areas that interest me so I could find a career, not just a job. Hopefully one day, I'll leave my mark and positively impact my colleagues, my projects, and the company I work for.
—Janisse Patino-Martinez

When you're going through it, you don't know what you don't know. This makes it challenging to ask the right questions and seek experiences that can enhance your academic success. Having a mentor who can guide you and help you navigate the university system can be very helpful.
Karina Gattamorta

Are you a faculty or staff member who is interested in becoming an Empower Me First mentor? Complete a brief questionnaire to receive more information about the upcoming program. For questions, contact emf.oae@miami.edu.