Cash means mentors for students

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By Tom Bartsiokas

Ryerson is recruiting international students like never before, and a $470,000 cash injection may make it a little bit easier for administration to lure them here.

The cash, compliments of the Counselling Foundation of Canada, will be used to set up a mentor program specifically geared toward students whose first language isn’t English.

“Over 40 per cent of Ryerson students are first generation immigrants, or newly arrived, or they speak English as a second language,” said Liz Devine, the manager of skill development with the university’s student services.  “A mentor will help them with an introduction into postsecondary education and the Canadian workplace.”

The program will begin as a pilot project next September with 230 participants — 170 students and 60 alumni.  It is expected to be open to all Ryerson students by its second year, but the program’s main goal is to help students who don’t speak English.

International student encounter more barriers than the average university student, making it even harder to find a job after graduation, said Kate Moore, co-ordinator of Ryerson’s international services for students.

Combine that with a hefty jump in international enrolment this year — registrar Keith Alnwick announced at Ryerson’s last board of governors’ meeting there are 43 per cent more international students at Ryerson this year than last year — the mentor initiative is a welcome addition to the university.

“This program will connect students with alumni in their field, and in the process it will enhance their chances of finding a job,” Moore said.

If successful, the program will work in four stages.

In the first year, third-year students will mentor new students.  In the second year, students will be taught leadership skills through a developmental program.  In the third year, the student who was guided in his first year will become the mentor.  An alumnus in the student’s field will mentor him in the final year.

But the $470,000 in funding, which will be used to pay two full-time staff members and all the program’s administrative and evaluation costs, will run in three years.

Devine said corporate cash and alumni donations will have to be solicited in order for the prgaom to continue after the first three years are up.

Tina Jhangiani, 19, said she would have liked to see a mentor program when she first arrived in Canada.

The first-year retail management student came from Thailand just a little more than a month ago and had troubles finding work because her international status only allowed her to be employed on campus.

“I think the mentor program would give students more security in terms of adjusting to a new place,” said Jhangiani, who eventually landed a job in the office of international student services.  “Even in a the situation I faced getting a job, perhaps a mentor could be a better guide to understanding the school system.”

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