Mentor Program

Program Director Liz Sabel is backed by (L to R) student success mentors Olya Homonchuk, Muhidin Sheekh, Amanda Freiborg, Rami Jubara, Khalid Barkhadle, Nicole Beaton, Megan Mails, and Bernard Akem.

To increase academic, personal and professional success for students, Normandale has developed a “Blueprint for New Student Success”. The program is a comprehensive, integrated plan for services and initiatives that support the retention of students newly enrolled in college. 

As one of its initiatives, the first year experience course, NCC 1000, was redesigned and is now required of new students testing into development level reading and math courses.

NCC 1000, a one credit course, focuses on college success strategies such as study skills and access to campus resources. The idea is to educate students about the resources available that can help them through a variety of situations early in their academic career and provide them with tools to be successful college students. There are currently 30 sections of NCC 1000, enrolling 750 students each semester.

Course offering and enrollment is expected to double in the next year.

As part of the course redesign, NCC 1000 has incorporated a curriculum with an ‘inside-out’ approach to self-awareness and personal growth. On Course, a Cengage Learning program, empowers students to develop inner qualities that will help them maximize their potential based on the premise that success occurs from the “inside out”.

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Students learn to -

  • Accept greater personal responsibility
  • Discover self-motivation
  • Master self-management
  • Employ interdependence
  • Gain self-awareness
  • Adopt lifelong learning
  • Develop emotional intelligence
  • Believe in themselves
  • Learn effective study strategies
  • Develop critical and creative thinking skills.

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To further improve student retention, Normandale has included a peer-to-peer component into NCC 1000, the addition of Student Success Mentors. Specially selected and trained current Normandale students are embedded as supplemental instructors in the class to serve as role models and help new students successfully transition to college life. 

In many cases, they are the first point of contact for a new student in need and the clearest communicator of the support services available. In return, they are mentored by Normandale instructors and gain valuable leadership and personal development skills including responsibility, leadership, diligence, interpersonal relations, and organization.

Mentor Bernard Akem (center) helps a student in NCC 1000 class session. Professor Paul Harlos is standing in the background.
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With a grant from the C. Charles Jackson Foundation, the student success mentors will receive two days of On Course training. This training will improve their effectiveness as peer liaisons and small group facilitators in NCC 1000 which will ultimately enhance the experience and success of new Normandale students.

While fairly common to four-year institutions, Student Success Mentors (also known as Peer Mentors or Orientation Leaders), are rare on two-year, community college campuses and Normandale is the first within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

Normandale had eight success mentors this past fall, nine in the spring, and hopes to employ 12 in future semesters. The group is a collection of students, who come from different backgrounds and bring a variety of experiences to the positions. Normandale Assistant Director of New Students, Liz Sabel, runs the Student Success Mentor program and emphasizes the need to have a diverse group of success mentors.

“Our requirements to be a student success mentor include a 2.5 GPA, attendance at Normandale for at least a semester and to be in good conduct standing with the college,” said Sabel. “However, the most important aspects to hiring success mentors are finding students who truly represent the diverse population of Normandale and have a desire to help new students.”

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As a new development, two of the student success mentors joining the program this spring had just completed NCC 1000 this past fall.

“I think having students who have gone through the new student success experience lends some credibility to the Success Mentor program,” said Sabel. “Both of the mentors who had previously taken the class, have been in situations where they have been able to explain the benefits NCC 1000 had for them. That viewpoint has helped them get other students to be more engaged in the course. They also have a good understanding of what works and what does not when it comes to the class.”

When Nicole Beaton first started the NCC 1000 class in the fall, she was not happy that she was required to take it. However, she quickly realized that it was an opportunity for her to obtain skills to become a better student.

“Once I got over the mindset of having to be in the class, I was able to take advantage of the things they were teaching me with time management, study habits and getting involved on campus,” said Beaton. “I took advantage of everything I learned in the class and applied it to my life, and I did a complete 180 from the student I was when I first arrived on campus.”

Nicole came to Normandale originally planning to major in marketing, but her experience as a success mentor sparked her to switch to a track more involved with education and counseling.

“Going through NCC 1000 and being a mentor, I have found a passion for helping people in education,” said Beaton. “I switched my major from marketing to psychology, and would like to get a master’s degree in counseling and become a school counselor. That passion has developed as I have gone through this program. Getting involved as a success mentor showed me what I want to do.”

Megan Mails admits that when she arrived at Normandale she was a procrastinator and felt that there was never enough time to get everything done.

“I used to think I had no time,” said Mails. “However, Liz (Sabel) helped me figure out how to organize my time better. I was able to do a better job separating and organizing the time needed for homework, school and work, and use my time and energy more effectively. Now, I get everything done and am not stressed out. This has helped me a lot as a student.”

Megan feels she has gained valuable leadership skills and strengthened her ability to speak in front of a class as a success mentor. In addition, being a success mentor has opened up a whole new group of friends to her on campus.

“The success mentors I work with are involved in other student life activities on campus,” said Mails. “This has helped me because whenever I have trouble understanding something on campus, I have a broader network of people to ask about it. It is a great group of people to work with, and we help each other in a lot of different ways.”

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Despite all the service they provide for other students...
The success mentor experience is just as valuable for the mentors providing the services.

Sabel has watched the program grow in its first full year. The success mentors are not only helping students academically, but in other ways as well. They serve as greeters to welcome all new students to campus during the first week of school, answer student questions during office hours, and invite new students to campus events.

Despite all the service they provide for other students, Sabel is quick to point out that the success mentor experience is just as valuable for the mentors providing the services.

“These students are developing valuable workplace and leadership skills through this program,” said Sabel. “They are also making connections with instructors, advisors and administrators that can help them in the future. It really is an excellent personal and professional development opportunity.”

The C. Charles Jackson Foundation’s grant has helped Normandale provide valuable experiences for both the students in the NCC 1000 classes and their success mentors.

“The On-Course training our instructors and mentors have taken really gives them a valuable set of skills to engage the students in these NCC 1000 courses,” said Sabel. “It has helped them strengthen their skills as facilitators, which is important to the environment of the class. We felt it was important for everyone to have these skills, which is one of the reasons we applied for the grant.”

These experiences provide major building blocks for the student’s future success at Normandale and beyond.

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C. Charles Jackson Foundation's Mission: Advance Student Leadership

The mission of the C. Charles Jackson Foundation is to advance leadership, character, and life-skills education for all students. CCJF recognizes the value of academic, professional and technical training: the “what” of a person’s education.

They also recognize that “what” a person knows must support “who” a person becomes and that personal development includes both internal and external dimensions of leadership.

Through grants, the foundation seeks to be an integral part in developing the next generation of leaders by supporting institutions and programs, including Normandale Community College, that share this mission and vision.

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