Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Environmental Program

First Advisor

Elizabeth Wright

Second Advisor

Kit Anderson

Keywords

mentoring, environmental studies, interdisciplinary, community, education

Abstract

The acknowledgement of complex environmental problems and society’s work to address them during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, inspired higher education to respond by developing a high number of interdisciplinary environmental studies programs nationally. In 1972, University of Vermont instituted the Environmental Program and the first cross-college environmental studies (ENVS) degree program. Students pursue an individually-designed program of study drawing on a wide vary of disciplines with great choice in their courses. The program sustained student interest and steadily grew over four decades. The current number of nearly 500 majors challenges the advising capacity of the faculty and staff. Other institutions in similar situations discovered success in relying on peer mentors—experienced students who help mentees understand ENVS and other university requirements and share their personal experience in the major.

In fall 2015 I developed a pilot ENVS mentor program, the Environmental Navigation Network (ENN): a Peer Mentor Student Service. Fourteen students became peer mentors and participated in peer mentoring activities in ENVS 151 and in pre-registration advising drop-in sessions. After assessing the fall semester, 11 new peer mentors were recruited and trained. The ENN program’s structure and activities modified to address the additional spring opportunities to serve. Evaluations show both mentors and mentees benefited from the program. Feedback from faculty and staff enthusiastically appreciated the mentors’ service this year and endorse its continued growth. A rising senior will coordinate the further development of the program and many students have expressed interest in becoming peer mentors for the 2016-2017 academic year.

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