Peer mentors can be a vital resource in promoting graduate student success and creating an inclusive, supportive community. Peer mentors may help new students adapt to graduate school as well as provide advice, encouragement and support at various stages during graduate training. Central to the success of peer mentoring relationships is the near-peer connection, where conversations happen naturally around topics of the shared experiences for the mentor and mentee. While similarities help motivate peer mentoring discussions, it is also important to acknowledge and value the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and identities that contribute to enhance and enrich the graduate experience. One of the primary goals of this session, is to help peer mentors better understand how to integrate an appreciation of differences in background as they engage with their mentees in supportive and productive relationships that are centered around respecting and valuing these differences.
Moreover, peer mentors will be key in supporting students during these very challenging times. The events of the past year including the pandemic (and our continued work remotely or semi-remotely), calls for social justice amidst the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and challenges for our international scholars are among many things that will affect the whole and the parts of our graduate student body. This session will also provide a foundation for discussions around the topics of engaging with peers from different race, ethnic, nationality, gender identity, socioeconomic, and other backgrounds. Participants will leave with a better understanding and ownership of DEIJB (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging) principles.
Kathy Takayama, Ph.D. (former Executive Director, Teaching and Learning Transformation Center at the University of Maryland-College Park) has over 20 years of experience in creating and leading innovations to develop engaging, inclusive, and effective learning environments for a wide range of institutions across the world. She has collaborated with educators and organizations to transform educational pathways and experiences, and foster successful outcomes for students from all backgrounds.