Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 27, 2019

Science People

Dr. Jeff Osborne, Dr. Kathy Davis and Dr. Kristen Short all contributed to initiate the STEM Pathways Academy. 

Photo Provided by Chloe Arndt

Introducing the Biology-Chemistry Peer Mentor Program

Alex Baker


Manchester’s biology-chemistry program has introduced a peer mentoring program for first-year students. This program gives upper-class students the opportunity to help firstyear students with their studies. With numerous students being biology-chemistry majors, many are eager to help the prospective students as they take on their first year. Professor of chemistry Jeff Osborne, strives to 
continue this successful program. But he makes sure to pay respect to those who founded the peer mentoring program for science majors.

Osborne credits two professors for the start of the overall program—Dr. Kathy Davis (Chemistry) and Dr. Kristen Short (Biology). It was initiated as part of the STEM Pathways Academy, which Davis and Short started at Manchester University about three years ago. Short then expanded the program to other science majors last year through the Pre-Professionals of Science student organization.

Osborne was impressed with how helpful the program was for first-year science majors. But he knew there was another step that needed to be taken. “After the successes of this peer mentor program in helping first-year science majors find their way at Manchester University, making the peer mentor program available to all first-year biology-chemistry majors was a natural next step,” Osborne said. 

There are many benefits of the program. “The biology-chemistry peer-mentor program provides less-advanced biology-chemistry students with the opportunity to connect with and learn from a second, third, or fourth-year science student mentor who can share insights, celebrate successes, and help navigate challenges,” Osborne said.

“The goal is to motivate, encourage, and support biology-chemistry students in their successful transition to college and development as a scientist,” Osborne explains further. Not only do professors want mentors to help mentees with their education, but they are hoping that a friendship can be formed outside of this program as well.

From a student’s perspective, there are benefits of teaching their mentees as well. Ella Machall, sophomore biology-chemistry major, looks to benefit herself from the program. “I want to develop my leadership skills and gain a personal sense of satisfaction from knowing that I am helping someone achieve goals that are similar to mine,” she said.

Students involved are well-prepared to help out their mentees. Marilyn Schutte, junior biology-chemistry major is excited to start guiding her peers. “For us mentors, it gives us a chance to be able to utilize our own knowledge and experiences to help someone else,” she said. “We will discuss guided journal prompts that gives us the chance to reflect on how school is going and what tactics we use in order to be successful.” Schutte wants to give back to the program that has made her into a successful student. Machall wants to focus on professional development with her mentee. “I look forward to guiding my mentee in the right direction and enjoying my role in helping others achieve their goals,” she said.

This program will be very student-based. “We are expected to meet with our mentees once a month for an hour, but we have the freedom of our own schedules and we can meet whenever it is best for us,” Schutte said. The faculty have faith in their mentors and will not be heavily involved. Mentors went through adequate training before the semester started.

Osborne is optimistic about the future of this program. “I hope that our assessment of the biology-chemistry peer mentor program after this year indicates enough positive benefits in this student population that we’ll be able to offer it each year moving forward,” he said.

Schutte hopes for a promising year and has an ultimate task that the program should aim for. “I think the goal for this program is to have a mentor for every freshman in the major,” she said confidently. The biology-chemistry program is one of the most-enrolled majors at Manchester and providing a mentoring program like this only strengthens it. These students become more confident in themselves and are ready to take the next level in the biology-chemistry world.