K-State Polytechnich launches student mentorship program

Published: Apr. 10, 2021 at 3:18 PM CDT
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SALINA, Kan. (WIBW) - A student at the Kansas State Polytechnic Campus has initiated a student mentorship program.

Kansas State University says a college mentoring program traditionally pairs a student with a professional mentor that assists with academic and personal growth. It said Trey Varner, a senior aviation student from Russell, has modified this concept in the development of the Wildcat Mentor Program at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. It said his approach focuses on student-to-student mentorship where experienced aviation students are matched with new ones.

According to K-State, Varner’s vision for the program evolved when he recognized students needed a lifeline to learn more about their degree program. Specifically, it said he wanted to help students enrolled in the aviation program. It said by pairing new students with upperclassmen, Varner predicts that those students will be more successful academically and socially. In turn, it said mentors will develop better leadership and interactive skills.

“When I came to K-State, I would have greatly benefited from a program like this,” Varner said.

K-State said Varner introduced the concept to Julie Rowe, the campus diversity, inclusion and access coordinator. It said Rowe recognized the mentorship program as a valuable resource for student success and retention. It said she agreed to serve as an advisor, giving insight into the university structure, policies and goals.

“Getting an initiative off the ground provides many opportunities to learn how the world works,” Rowe said. “My job is to help Trey figure out how to turn a passion/idea into reality.”

Together, K-State said Rowe and Varner are creating a mentor handbook, recruiting mentors and facilitating training sessions. It said at least 10 students have agreed to serve as mentors and will help with a soft rollout during the spring 2021 semester. It said the Wildcat Mentor Program is projected to be fully operational in the 2021-22 school year.

K-State said new students will be matched with experienced students for academic, social and career guidance. In addition, it said social events sponsored b the program will help build a sense of community for the entire campus. It said the program will also help students set themselves apart when they are ready to enter the aviation industry.

“Leadership and community service are both important to companies hiring our graduates,” Rowe said. “Students who have been mentors can speak to those attributes.”

According to the handbook, K-State said a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. It said mentors are expected to provide wisdom, technical knowledge, assistance, resources, support, empathy and respect. It said students will be taught critical skills, like how to instruct, inspire and critique. It said they will also learn the importance of managing risks and establishing campus and industry relationships. Overall, it said a quality mentor will help new students understand how their ambitions fit into education, life and career choices.

“The university is committed to providing as many resources as possible to help students succeed,” Rowe said. “Mentorship is one of those resources. There is nothing like peer-to-peer mentorship.”

Initially, K-Stae said mentorship training will be facilitated by Rowe and Varner. It said ongoing sessions will focus on identifying quality mentoring skills, developing critical competencies through group exercises and introducing students to industry partners. Additionally, it said several students will be identified to manage the program after Varner graduates.

According to K-State, Varner wants to work for a corporate or private company as a professional pilot. It said he says the most influential mentor in his life was his grandfather.

“He showed me what it was like to be a strong and confident worker, how to be the best and to excel at anything I put my mind to,” Varner said. “But he always made sure to have time to have a little fun and excitement in his life.”

Varner said he would tell incoming students to study hard.

“Study, study, study! But also make sure to take time for yourself,” Varner said. “Aviation is tough and can be taxing on the mind, so don’t overdo it.”

K-State said Varner hopes the Wildcat Mentorship Program will be enhanced over the years with mentees advancing to mentors. It said he also trusts his ultimate goal will be achieved: creating student-to-student relationships that will contribute to student retention, graduation and successful entry into the aviation industry.

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