ST. PETER — Donte Curtis was certainly aware that he was one of few black freshmen on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus last school year.
But that’s not why he wanted to take part in the Mentoring for Student Success program, which pairs first-year minority students with faculty and staff who serve as mentors the whole school year.
“I understand the role of the mentor and what that can do for you,” said Curtis, a sophomore public accounting and religion major. “It was more about the support.”
Curtis had such an amazing experience working with his mentor, former assistant dean of admission Adam Lugsch-Tehle, that he’s now working with the Diversity Center on campus to expand and improve upon the program. They’re working on adding a peer-mentoring piece, setting up the freshmen with upper classmen who can offer their experiences on campus.
The idea behind Mentoring for Student Success came about by Virgil Jones, coordinator of multicultural recruitment and assistant director of admission. Jones and faculty Carolyn O’Grady and Sujay Rao noted that the college had an overall retention rate of 90 percent while the minority student retention rate was 60 percent.
Gustavus has bolstered its efforts to recruit a diverse student body. And Jones thought the addition of a mentoring program would help keep those students on campus, as well as create a meaningful connection between faculty and students.
“I think that one of the things we miss often in the world, but also in the transition from high school to college, is the understanding of each other’s humanity,” Jones said. “And I think that this program has made faculty and students to not think of (themselves) as one group and ‘the other,’ but to think of themselves as part of the same community.”