October 18, 2011

While most LSU students embody the “Love Purple. Live Gold.” motto, the first semester can be intimidating for many new students who have to navigate campus, maintain a social life, adapt to college academics and build new friendships among other things. The Tiger Transition Team, a division of Student Life’s First Year Experience, recognized these challenges and assembled a group of mentors willing to guide freshmen through their first semester of college.

The Tiger Transition program pairs freshmen with upper-level students in similar majors who can provide support and guidance. Mentors and mentees meet at least once a month and stay in touch through e-mail, phone and social networking sites.

“The Tiger Transition Team is a way for First Year Experience to decrease the number of dropouts,” said Mitchell Fiegley, a biological and agricultural engineering senior and Tiger Transition Team board chair. LSU improved its average freshmen retention rate, which went from 84 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2011.

Fiegley and Awonu Lekia, a petroleum engineering senior, both got involved with the Tiger Transition team in 2009 after receiving an email requesting volunteers. Since then, they have mentored mostly engineering students about balancing the academic and social aspects of college life and witnessed first-hand the benefits of mentoring others.

Lekia’s favorite part of the mentorship is being someone who can influence others.

“Being a mentor is rewarding because you actually get to help them obtain their goal – graduating with an engineering degree,” Lekia said. Although the program only lasts for the first semester of students’ freshman year, many mentors and mentees stay in contact. 

While the mentors witness the value of mentoring, they also gain valuable personal experience.

“One thing our professors tell us is that we lack communication skills,” Lekia said. “Being a mentor has given me confidence in my speech, breaking down the barrier of meeting new people.”

Lekia has also strengthened her communication skills through the emails and texts that she sends to her mentees throughout the semester.

“Being a mentor is another chance to develop communication skills by working with technical aspects,” Fiegley said. “You learn how to explain more technical things to a different audience.”

 The Tiger Transition Team has also given Fiegley the opportunity to build his leadership skills.

“Leadership is extremely important in engineering,” Fielgey said. “Engineers are natural leaders whether it’s leading other workers to develop products or mentoring others.”

When asked if she would recommend the Tiger Transition team to other engineering students, Lekia said, “I would definitely recommend it. Each semester, we gain knowledge and experience that freshmen don’t have. Whatever little advice we have can go a long way in helping others.”

To qualify to be a mentor, students must be at least sophomores, have a 2.75 GPA and be accepted into their senior colleges. Mentors also have to participate in Moodle-based training where learn more about the program and expectations as mentors.

For more information, visit http://fye.lsu.edu/tiger-transition-team.

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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