MENTORING GROUP HELPS NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS ADJUST TO CAMPUS LIFE
When Papiya Gupta, an international student from India, arrived in Syracuse to begin work on a master’s degree in information resources management (IRM), she felt fortunate that a group of graduate student mentors was there to help her through her first year at SU. “Mentors have experience with professors and the job market, and are in a position to guide us in the right direction, suggesting courses in line with our career goals and educational background,” Gupta says. “They are always available and receptive to hearing our problems—not always academic problems—and help us in any way they can.”
The mentoring group, part of the Information Studies Graduate Organization (ISTGO), was formed in 1999, says Michelle Pham, an IRM student and chair of the group. It now has 32 mentors, serving 90 first-year graduate students in the school’s three graduate programs: IRM, telecommunications and network management, and library science. “The group exists to help students maximize their potential,” Pham says. “It provides students with information on a peer-to-peer level.”
In addition to meeting individually with new graduate students, mentors help with the school’s fall orientation, conducting tours and group advising sessions. They also participate in Information and Information Environments, a required one-credit course for all new graduate students. Outside of academics, the group holds social functions throughout the year so new students can get to know one another and the rest of the information studies community.
The group also puts together panel discussions on internships and research, in which experienced students talk about their placements and how they obtained them. “The best advice on companies to approach for internships comes from mentors, because they’ve gone through and hashed out the entire process themselves,” Gupta says. “Mentors can give us industry contacts, tell us which company is doing what projects, what the recruiting policies are, tips and tricks for internship hunting—all valuable input.”
Pham says the group plans to expand its efforts, including creating a networking database with information on current information studies graduate students as well as alumni. New this year is a web site (www.istweb.syr.edu/ ~peer) where individual mentor profiles are available. “This enables students to directly e-mail a mentor who may be in the same program, have similar interests, or be from the same hometown,” Pham says.
Membership changes with each semester, as older group members graduate and a fresh crop of students comes in. “One of the challenges will be to keep up the caliber of our mentors,” Pham says. “We need to pass on the torch in the most effective way.”
LAW PROFESSORS SHARE THEIR EXPERTISE WITH COLLEAGUES THROUGH LECTURE SERIES
In some ways, law school professors lead isolated professional lives. Interaction with students aside, most professors exist within their own spheres of expertise in their particular school, says Leslie Bender, associate dean for faculty development at the College of Law. “Faculty members sometimes aren’t aware of what their colleagues are doing because they’re not in the same specialty. And they don’t know what other faculty are writing about because they’re reading things in their own specialties.”
A reinvigorated faculty lecture series aims to address this by showcasing the vast expertise among law faculty members. “A friend of mine likes to say, ‘Nobody is a prophet in his own country,’” Bender says. “This is a way for us to let our colleagues be prophets in their own country.”
Recent lectures have covered a wide range of topics. Professor Keith Sealing presented the question of whether the First Amendment free exercise clause should prohibit states from banning religiously motivated polygamy. Professor Tom Maroney shared his experiences at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and discussed remedies for federal prosecutor misconduct, using the Wen Ho Lee case of alleged espionage at the Los Alamos nuclear research laboratory as an example. And Professor Steve Marchese discussed his article “Putting Square Pegs into Round Holes: Mediation and the Rights of Children With Disabilities Under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).”
In addition to faculty lectures, the College of Law holds a distinguished lecture series. Jurist-in-Residence Sonia Sotomayor, Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge, initiated the college’s Lawyering for Social Justice series in November. The college has also scheduled an Equal Justice Colloquium this spring. “There is a strong interest in lawyers’ responsibility for addressing problems of access to justice for poor and under-served communities,” Bender says. “We’re pulling lawyering for social justice together as our theme for the year, and highlighting it through lectures, reading groups, and other activities on campus.”
Bender says the college has offered other lecture series over the years. “Having a lecture series is a fairly regular part of the intellectual environment for the law school faculty,” she says. “However, we’re trying to reinvigorate it this year, and we’ve had some wonderful success.”
Bender believes such faculty opportunities offer myriad benefits to those involved. “We want to spend a lot of time encouraging faculty in their intellectual growth,” she says. “The faculty lecture series gives us a chance to share work with one another, and learn about each other’s expertise and what we’re all doing. We have some incredibly talented and provocative faculty members.”
Professor David Driesen says he enjoys hearing about his colleagues’ work outside his own area of expertise, as well as the opportunity to share his ongoing work. “It forces me to articulate important themes in the work at an early stage,” he says. “And the questions faculty members ask sometimes help me see problems I should address.”