Courtesy of NYUAD Student Government.

Brothers and sisters program to foster friendships, community

In late August, Student Government will kick-start a new program called Brothers and Sisters. The program will pair an incoming freshman with an ...

Aug 17, 2013

Courtesy of NYUAD Student Government.
In late August, Student Government will kick-start a new program called Brothers and Sisters. The program will pair an incoming freshman with an upperclassman mentor of the same gender.
Brothers and Sisters aims to "increase inter-class interaction while providing additional support for incoming students during their first semester ([s]) at NYUAD and in the city at large," according to the program brief released to upperclassmen on July 31.
After the first informal event on Aug. 30, where students will be paired, participants can shape the mentorship as they wish. Subsequent social events will be hosted by Student Government throughout the semester but are not mandatory.
Upon registration, upperclassmen fill in a survey that gauges their interests and availability to the program in order to find a suitable mentee match. Topics covered in the survey range from academic interests and extracurricular involvement to study abroad intentions. The program depends largely on the commitment of its participants.
"Our hope is that Brothers and Sisters will bond together over their mutual hobbies and interests and invite each other out to the movies or to go exploring in the city," said Student Government Secretary Veronica Houk.
The Executive Board conceived the program in May 2013 during the Student Government retreat, and has been working over the summer to prepare for its inception in the fall. According to Houk, the program is responding to the first time that NYUAD has a student body of four classes. A program like Brothers and Sisters could more easily facilitate student body integration. The program was not only intended to welcome incoming freshmen, but to welcome back senior students who have been studying away from the Abu Dhabi campus.
"While I'm sure everyone will get to know their peers throughout the year, this program will with hope to make those first introductions easier," Houk said.
Incoming freshman James Carrington Gardner agreed that having an upperclassman mentor could help him feel more welcomed to the student body. The Brothers and Sisters initiative confirmed his notion of a close NYUAD community.
"The idea of the student body being a family is really reinforced [by the program]," Gardner said. "We ... have an avenue to meet the rest of the current student body."
Junior Farah Mohmad said the program answers a demand that she recognized in her freshman year. Mohmad received a lot of help from her RA in her freshman year, and indicated that the Brothers and Sisters mentorship can create such similar relationships.
Another incoming freshman, Patrick Wee, described a similar need for an informal mentorship experience.
"I always had those questions — about academics, about the student experience, about food, about the laundry — and I've always needed someone at the student level to help me get things straight," Wee said.
Wee asked his Candidate Weekend peer ambassador, sophomore Rodrigo Ceballos, these questions and welcomed the Brothers and Sisters program as a way to ensure that every freshman has access to guidance.
Wee's experience indicates that incoming freshmen want to receive mentorship much earlier than the start of their first semester. Gardner articulated the same sentiment.
"I feel that the peer mentoring should be established as soon as students are chosen," Gardner said. "The faculty mentor is great for specific questions about course clashes and technical guidance, but current students can give their own opinions on classes and real feedback about which lectures were really not interesting or engaging.”
Upperclassmen are given a little less than a month to sign up for the program, as registration closes on Aug 25. If there are not enough upperclassmen enrolled in the program, up to three freshmen can be assigned to the same mentor.
Incoming freshman Sebastian Rojas Cabal referred to difficulty in contacting his academic mentor over the summer and hoped that upperclassmen mentors in the Brothers and Sisters program could  be reached more easily. According to Cabal, however, the mentorship would ideally be based on friendship as opposed to professionalism.
The time commitment of the program is a challenge for some upperclassmen. Although Brothers and Sisters aims to include seniors who have been away from Abu Dhabi, some seniors anticipate a year too busy for the program.
“I personally do not think I will be participating, not because I see anything wrong with the program whatsoever,” said senior Lucas Hansen. “Rather, with capstone projects and other academic stresses coming up, I am nervous about over-extending myself in the coming year.”
After the release of the upperclassmen program brief on the NYUAD Student Life Facebook group, students have commented positively on Brothers and Sisters. Some students questioned the need for same-gender pairs.
Houk explained that the many students would be most comfortable with a mentor or mentee of the same gender, and same-gender pairing is logistically the best approach. Further, Brothers and Sisters could be used as a networking tool.
“You can always meet other students, regardless of gender, by introducing yourself to your friends’ Brothers and Sisters and introducing your Brother or Sister to your friend,”  Houk said.
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