Partners for Success enriches the lives and
careers of faculty and students involved in
The 1980s saw a significant increase in the number of students enrolled in colleges and universities who did not have the benefit of any family history in postsecondary education. The growing number of first-generation students elicited a great deal of interest among academicians who sought to provide them with support systems. In 1988, faculty members and student development professionals at California State University, Long Beach collaborated to establish such a system. In a true partnership between the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Services, the Partners for Success Faculty Mentoring Students Program was born.
Professional staff of the School-Based Student Services Program (now disbanded) began conversations with student-centered faculty members in each of the colleges to recruit mentors for the program. Student development professionals identified interested students and matched the pairs. Mentors began meeting regularly with their students outside the classroom, sharing meals, taking walks and even inviting students into their homes. As friendly advisors, mentors provided the students with a sense of direction with career plans, counseled them about family-related issues or personal adjustments to university life and supported them with connections to campus resources.
Eventually, funding was obtained from the California Lottery Fund to support faculty with release time and to assist with expenses. Students and faculty mentors participants provided evaluations of the program and faculty met regularly to share experiences. Their input was used to evolve the program. A “cluster leader” concept was established in which senior faculty mentors supported new mentors coming into the program. Regular “bring your own lunch” meetings were held for cluster leaders to discuss emerging issues. An educational component was developed to provide faculty mentors with a glimpse of how university offices function and to enhance their understanding of the support services available to students.
The organizational structure put into place for Partners was a shared governance model that allowed for effective, regular communication and gave mentors the opportunity to gain administrative experience, such as supervising other faculty and working with budgets. The structure also impacted the teaching of faculty and resulted in a number of success stories. Several Partners faculty received the university’s “outstanding faculty member” award and others advanced their careers into university administration.
In 1988, Kathryn Goddard established
the mentoring program that became
Partners for Success
Over the years, Partners for Success proved to be a key variable in the retention of students fortunate enough to participate in the program. Many friendships were developed between mentors and their students. Students found commonality with other students who, like them, were educational pioneers within their families.
As Partners for Success celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is clear that the program—which serves between 312 and 420 students each year—enriches lives and careers and provides a unique learning community and safety net for first-generation students.