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Mentors can change lives of Barack Obama Scholars


June 09, 2009

Mentoring a student can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences.

This holds true for the person who is mentored and for the individual who provides guidance. Students who have mentors are more likely to utilize support and tutoring services, become involved on campus and have a higher retention rate than the general student population.    

With the establishment of the Barack Obama Scholars Program, faculty and staff mentors are needed to help approximately 1,100 qualifying students adjust to college life. A mentor’s role can take many paths from pointing a student to university resources to simply being there when a student needs a sounding board.

“This is a great opportunity to positively impact the academic and personal development of ASU freshmen,” says James Rund, ASU’s senior vice president, University Student Initiatives. “Mentors will find these highly motivated students very rewarding to work with and support.”

Faculty members from ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy, & Outcomes, a research center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are joining together to each mentor an Obama scholar.

“One of our faculty members, Clark Miller, suggested it. Everyone else agreed it was a great idea,” says Daniel Sarewitz, director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, & Outcomes. “As a group, we are committed to helping young people understand how to think about and deal with an increasingly complex world.”    

Faculty members in the consortium consider it a privilege to mentor a young person who will eventually take on the challenges facing the world today. 

“Mentoring curious, creative and motivated young students is an inspiration and a privilege. Perhaps the most rewarding and hopeful aspect of being a university faculty member is participating in the process by which the next generation develops its own intellectual identity and capacity to engage the challenges of tomorrow’s world,” Sarewitz says.

ASU is expanding its financial aid program to include more Arizona families in response to President Barack Obama’s challenge for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. The university has raised its qualifying family income level to $60,000, thereby increasing student beneficiaries from 500 to more than 1,100. 

The program provides funding for direct costs to all academically qualified Arizona freshmen from families that earn less than $60,000. Covered costs – minus expected family contributions – include tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Obama Scholars are also required to participate in a work-study program.    

Mentors for the scholars are not only guiding a student through college; they are helping the nation and the state improve global competitiveness. Arizona’s current college graduation rates are dismal with only nine out of 100 students who begin high school going on to college and earning a bachelor’s degree. 

Sarewitz and his colleagues hope to utilize students’ enthusiasm for new technologies and the center’s research interests – the role of science and technology in society - to help students become engaged and excited about learning opportunities available at ASU.

“Learning how to think about these questions can prepare students for a whole range of intellectual and social challenges that are part of a successful and challenging university education,” Sarewitz says.  

Please go to http://promise.asu.edu/obamascholars/mentoring to sign up as a mentor.