CS mentoring programs

The Department of Computer Science launches mentoring programs to support students throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.
A building with a name across the front

Since the pandemic has caused Tufts and so many other places to work remotely, the Department of Computer Science has found new ways to keep our community together despite the physical distance we maintain. Much thought has been given by faculty, staff, and alumni as to how to keep students connected and how to support students during the various stages of their time at Tufts. From these concerns, two mentoring groups were developed: Alumni Buddy Groups, matching alumni with students, and Peer Mentoring, matching juniors and seniors with freshmen and sophomores. Read more about these new and innovative programs below.

Alumni Buddy Groups

In October 2020, Code for Good co-founders Caroline Kaufman (A20) and Yuki Zaninovich (A18) reached out to current students in an effort to understand how the remote semester was going. They generated and sent out a survey to approximately 80 students. Kaufman reports that “in particular, we hoped to identify places where the CS External Advisory Board and/or the broader alumni community could provide support, with the secondary goal of carrying forward the enthusiasm and engagement from alumni that we saw in this summer’s Code for Good program.

Key findings from the survey showed that students felt they did not have an adequate support network while working remotely. They also indicated that they would like to have more career advice and would appreciate more interactions with alumni.

Out of this grew a new venture, Alumni Buddy Groups. This spring, in its trial run, 71 students and 24 alums have been matched. Groups of three were formed according to areas of concern. Zaninovich contacts the students and mentors on a weekly basis and reports that the program is going well.

The Alumni Buddy Group will officially continue through the end of the semester, although the groups are free to continue for as long as they would like. A survey will be done in May to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, and to assess whether or not to continue in the fall.

Read more about Code for Good.

Peer Mentoring

In addition to these efforts by the alumni, the CS department is piloting a peer mentoring program this spring for undergraduates after the idea was raised in a CS student council meeting. Developed by Nicole Fundaro, Academic Resource Advisor, and Donna Cirelli, Program Administrator, the goal is to connect upper-level CS students with freshmen and sophomores to help guide them along the path of a CS degree, feel part of the community, and form stronger relationships with other students.

The program is off to a good start with 16 mentors and 21 mentees. The feedback the department has received so far has been encouraging! The mentors and mentees determine how often to meet and what they would like to discuss. Fundaro and Cirelli are available to offer support for the mentors should any concerns arise and provide a monthly check-in.

The department is hopeful that the program will continue. Fundaro commented that “any member of our department can tell a student what classes they need to take, where they stand in terms of graduation, and help with the job search, but having another student to talk to about the ins and outs of the program will help our younger students feel more a part of the CS community.” Her hope is that some of the mentees will become mentors in their junior and senior years, passing on their knowledge and expertise to the incoming students. The plan is to assess the program at the end of the semester and tweak as needed.

For further information, please contact Nicole Fundaro at nicole.fundaro@tufts.edu

Computer Science