CHAMPS Peer Mentoring Program: An Opportunity to Get Ahead, Give Back
Whether you are stepping into a lecture hall or logging onto your classroom for the first time, the college experience comes with a heavy number of butterflies in your stomach.
For online students, those anxious feelings often arise from the fact that this is all new. Since childhood, school had been a routine: wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, mentally prep yourself, ride the bus or drive to campus, walk in, sit down, and get started.
Online learning forces you to rewire your routine, and it takes some adjustment. While you’re easily cutting out the commuting portion, you need to set a schedule for school that accounts for your work and family responsibilities, and then you need to adjust to a brand new style of learning.
First-time Ashford University students have an advantage, because they can always call on CHAMPS (Collaborative, Holistic, Academic Mentoring for Peer Success).
Why CHAMPS Works
No matter how much preparation you’ve done, you can’t know everything about the online classroom before you’ve logged in, and once you’re there, it helps to have someone point you in the right direction.
That’s where CHAMPS peer mentoring program comes into play. Students who have been through the experience are the most qualified to help first-year learners get through the ups and downs. They can point out the best ways to take advantage of Ashford’s Writing Center, offer tips on using the Library, and help you network between student organizations and societies when you don’t know where to begin.
When not showing new students around the online classroom, CHAMPS mentors act as a virtual shoulder to lean on. They have already mastered the time management and organizational skills that are essential for online learning, and are able to share their strategies for future generations of Ashford graduates.
In many cases, CHAMPS mentors can offer a unique perspective when students least expect it. Take mentor Dan Yoder, who was able to draw on his life experience in the military to assist fellow students coming into the online classroom.
“One of the most important aspects of going to college is to have a support system,” Yoder explains. Some people have supportive families, others have friends and colleagues, while others have no one. We all have bad days or classes we struggle with, and a peer mentor is there to help.”
Who Can Be a CHAMPS Mentor or Mentee?
Becoming a mentee is an important step toward joining the larger Ashford University community. Active students can apply and be accepted if they meet the basic academic requirements.
The mentee-mentor relationship is a valuable partnership and a two-way street. It’s important for mentees to understand that mentors cannot help with everything. Be ready to write down all of your questions ahead of time so you can get answers before you’re paired with a mentor.
When it comes to joining CHAMPS as a mentor, you must show that you not only have the academic credentials but can also commit the time to the program.
To be eligible, student (or alumni) mentors must have at least a 3.0 GPA with 30 undergraduate or 12 graduate credits completed at Ashford. Mentors must be prepared to commit at least one hour per week with their mentees, and also be willing to take a leadership role in the relationship. After all, mentors are the ones who can provide the guidance that could eventually turn a mentee into a fellow CHAMP.
Why CHAMPS Is Valuable Beyond the Classroom
Learning to navigate the library and put together a daily schedule can keep you on track during school, for sure, but the CHAMPS peer mentoring program provides intangible benefits that go beyond the potential positive changes to your GPA.
- If you’re an introvert or you have trouble finding a mentor outside of school, CHAMPS can provide a certain level of comfort. Knowing that you’ve connected with someone who’s gone through what you’re facing – even if they have a different major or career – you’ll have begun a relationship that can positively impact your future.
Take the advice of Forbes contributor and startup founder Chris Myers, who says the benefits of a good mentor relationship can outweigh “natural ability and even dumb luck.”
“I firmly believe that mentorship is the best path to career success, hands down,” Myers writes.
- For many students, the introduction to a CHAMPS peer mentor is their first introduction to networking. This skill is one of the most valuable across any industry, and you’ve found a way in just by reaching out! Once you develop a relationship with your mentor, you can ask him/her to introduce you to students in Ashford’s numerous online clubs and organizations, and you can do the same in return.
Because Ashford University is a global campus, the opportunities to network with other students can give you worldwide perspective on any number of topics, and put you in a position to make useful career contacts while still in school.
- For mentors, success in the CHAMPS program instills you with leadership qualities that may prove invaluable in the workplace. A CHAMPS mentor may find themselves taking a co-worker under his/her wing, or using their Ashford experience to ascend into a managerial role.
While mentoring could be listed on your resume under “volunteer” experience, career experts suggest making it a cover letter highlight. This way you can describe in better detail what you learned from the CHAMPS mentoring program, and how you can apply your skills and knowledge to a future role.
Outside of school, when you’re focused on your career and family, it can be challenging to find someone with the qualities you need in mentor. Equally, it can be challenging to find time to act as a mentor to someone who needs one. Fortunately, you have found a university that makes these connections possible – and beneficial – for every student.
Written by Ashford University staff.