Focus: Mentor-mentee relationship, new houses within the mentorship program, diversity
As one of the largest majors at Georgia Tech, it can be difficult for biomedical engineering (BME) students to find a niche within the program. Since the creation of the BME Learning Commons last fall, the Learning Commons team has been working on addressing this issue. With the introduction of the BME mentorship program last year, a two-tiered program was born, where freshmen and transfer BME students were paired with older biomedical engineering students who acted as student mentors, and each student mentor was paired with a BME alumni.
From the alumni, older students received important career advice and job opportunities; from the older students, the new BME students learned how to navigate classes and coursework, and were able to create close relationships within the biomedical engineering department.
In an effort to expose new freshmen and transfer students to the diverse career options within the biomedical engineering program and to foster the student mentor-mentee relationship, a new ‘houses’ concept was introduced to the program this fall. There are currently four houses, and each house contains several student mentors and mentees.
Each student mentor within a given house has a different area of interest within the biomedical engineering field: some will be pursuing medical school or graduate degrees, while others will be starting industry jobs, military service, or working in research labs. Connor Sofia, a BME student mentor, thinks the new houses are a “fantastic idea” because they help expose new BME students to the major’s diversity. Connor believes that the new houses are “very valuable” because “if my mentee decides to change her mind [about what she wants to do with her degree], it gives her a great opportunity to do that.”
Initially, Athena, a freshman BME student, joined the mentorship program because she simply “wanted to learn more about being a BME.” Athena hopes that her involvement with the mentorship program will be able to give her a more personal look at what it takes to become a biomedical engineer. Connor agrees, saying that “a large part of the relationship mentors-mentees need to have goes beyond the academic and having the details and personal connections really helps with that.”
Many of Athena’s initial concerns about classes, the pre-health option, and BME-specific extracurricular activities, were addressed through talking to Connor, her student mentor, or to other mentors within her house. Within a few months of joining the mentorship program and talking to various student mentors, Athena feels that “this is where I want to be” and is excited to start her first BME course next semester.
With the addition of the new house’s concept to the BME mentorship program, the Learning Commons team hopes to help new BME students see the wide range of opportunities that can be done with a biomedical engineering degree. Apart from diversifying the exposure freshman and transfer students receive, the house’s concept is designed to help strengthen the mentor-mentee relationship, ultimately making biomedical engineering students feel more at home within their department.