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LSU Tiger Transition Team Helps Freshmen Get the Most Out of the College Experience

For some, adjusting to the first semester of college is not the easiest task, but with guidance, first-year students are able to find their classes, balance social lives with college-level course work and even find time to visit Death Valley on a Saturday night.

Those providing the guidance are part of the Tiger Transition Team, a program under the Division of Student Life's First Year Experience office. The Tiger Transition Team is a peer mentoring program designed to ease the transition from high school to college for first-year students.

"As a mentee, I remember my first day of school and being really nervous," said Rose Espiritu, a kinesiology junior from Houma, La. "My mentor showed me where my classes were and introduced me to a lot of students, which made me feel welcomed."

It's not all about helping students find classes and learn their way through the Quad; getting acclimated to the social aspect of college is one of the mentors' major undertakings.

"The mentors are helping students with the social aspect of being a student," said Randy Fontenot, assistant director of First Year Experience and director of Tiger Transition Team. "We promote the program with the understanding that a good student has a balance between their social and academic life."

Espiritu, who now serves as a mentor in the Tiger Transition Team, said her mentee likes hip hop dance, so as part of introducing her to campus life she took her to Harambeé, which is Swahili for "coming together" and celebrates African-American student life, where she watched a ladies' dance group perform and received information on joining.

"We eat a lot in the dining halls, and she tells me about her day," said Espiritu. "She was excited about getting involved on campus, so I was just there to show her how to get involved and do different things."

The program has grown since its creation in 2007. According to Fontenot, there are currently 400 mentees and 231 upper-level undergraduate mentors taking part in Tiger Transition Team who are matched based on categories including major, interest and hometown.

Mentors go through Moodle-based training where they receive information about the program and learn expectations of the mentors.

"We have a piece in training about the resources here on campus and a piece on active listening," said Fontenot.

All mentors must complete the training before they get a mentee.

Angela Sansone, freshman from Baton Rouge, said her mentor was helpful in explaining aspects of campus life that were unfamiliar to her.

"I remember e-mailing her frantically about the first day of school," said Sansone. "She didn't get frustrated but explained the fee bills, scheduling, where my classes were and still tells me how to schedule next semester, where to go for the testing sites and so much more."

Not all mentees join the program at the beginning of their college careers. First Year Experience maintains a list of out-of-state students who they call to check on their progress in adapting to college life.

"We get wind of a lot of first-year students who are having issues adjusting to campus," said Desmond Robinson, higher education administration graduate student with First Year Experience. "We reach out to them and try to pair them with a mentor. I think this has prevented some students from transferring mid-semester."

The program hosts several events throughout the semester to provide opportunities for new students to engage with one another. While the mentoring relationship lasts only one semester, many mentors and mentees remain close.

"I am still in contact with my mentor today," said Espiritu. "I think it's good that we are giving students the opportunity to get involved."

For more information, visit http://fye.lsu.edu/tiger-transition-team.