Message from the Director

This May Austin Ashley, Kristina Howell, Hunter Meyers, Maggie Palmiero, Yinuo Peng, Ajith Senthil, Iris Yan, Yuji Yao, and Chenhao Zhao will graduate and continue their journey as students, educators, scientists, and mentors. As our sixth graduating class, they stand out as the cohort that has demonstrated the greatest investment in peer mentorship by actively supporting each other, future MSPS students, and undergraduates.

First, each person in this cohort offers their knowledge and skills to bolster each other’s success.  Typically, students who enter our program have unique educational backgrounds, skillsets, and goals. They honor these differences and focus on their common objective to experience success however they choose to define it. Furthermore, they generously share their knowledge and experiences with each other to bolster each person’s success. If one person struggles with programming, another person who excels at programming offers to share resources or to code alongside them. Our strong writers offer to read and edit drafts of their peers’ written work. They stand in as a naturally broad audience and help each other effectively communicate their research. Importantly, this cohort cares about each other’s goals and respects each person’s process of goal attainment. Through their peer engagement, they exhibit effective communication skills that are the hallmark of mentorship. Namely, they increase their awareness of themselves and others; they are curious about other people’s stories; they listen for passion and potential; and they share their own experiences.

In addition to supporting their own cohort members, the Class of 2024 supports other MSPS students. As they completed the first year of the program and prepared to enter the second year, they first considered the incoming class of MSPS students. They planned a virtual welcome event, providing new students with resources to navigate the Champaign-Urbana area and the MSPS program. They appreciated that coming to a new country, a new state, a new town, and a new University can feel overwhelming. Moreover, they wanted to alleviate the concerns that new students often have about their ability to excel at the graduate level. Most recently, Hunter Meyers led two professional development seminars to share his knowledge of research communication with the first-year students and encouraged students to regard him as a resource as they prepare for our annual research fair.

As the 2024 cohort entered their second year of the program, I was eager to challenge this cohesive, talented, and compassionate group to collaborate on a project that would help build community in the psychology department. They chose to create both a peer mentoring program for undergraduate psychology students and a mentoring guide for future graduate students who want to cultivate mentorship skills or work toward the Graduate College’s Mentoring Certificate. For the peer mentoring program, they created a website to inform undergraduates about the skills and resources they have to share. Through the website, they invite undergraduates to select a mentor that has skills that align with their goals or to drop in for a casual consultation. For the mentorship guide, they collated resources and experiences that will ease and enhance the process of selecting a mentee, aligning expectations and goals, and cultivating a mentor/mentee relationship. In collaboration with our subject librarian, Dr. Yali Feng, they will create a library guide to share what they have learned with graduate students in other departments.

Although the Psychology Peer Mentoring program and the Mentorship Library Guide are works in progress, we hope they will benefit our community for years to come. Ultimately, we hope that students at every stage will appreciate that they have much to offer their own communities. We believe there is great power in pooling our collective experiences, knowledge, and skills to scaffold each other.