4D in Action: Mentors Help Students Find Their Path
Ask any alumni about their experience at DU, and you’ll likely hear about a professor or staff member who had a significant impact on their education, career or life. That’s why the University is committed to ensuring all students from day one have a “a constellation of mentors”—a group of individuals who support and nurture their growth and development during their time here.
“Research shows there is a correlation between graduates' overall opinion of their college experience and sense of whether college was ‘worth it’ and the number of relationships they had with faculty and staff while in school,” says Sam Anderson-Lehman, associate director of 4D mentoring and planning.
Starting last fall, incoming freshmen are assigned a core group of mentors and advisors, including a 4D peer mentor, their first-year seminar faculty mentor, an academic advisor and a residential peer mentor. As they continue their academic journey, students add to their constellation a variety of people who provide feedback, emotional support, access to opportunities and professional development, accountability and a safe space to share their experiences.
Most of those relationships begin organically, Anderson-Lehman says. “In some cases, a single mentor or advisor may be able to fulfill several of a student’s needs. But more likely, a student will rely on many people as their needs evolve and change.”
For senior Rebecca Murabito, a double major in public policy and sociology (and political science minor), several staff members and advisors she met through the DU Programming Board (DUPB) became mentors who helped her find her footing as a student and student leader.
Rebecca is from Virginia and started at DU in the fall of 2020, sight unseen, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had heard positive things about the Korbel School of International Studies from a family friend and liked DU’s locale, close to downtown but also to the mountains—which she had previously visited on ski trips with her family.
Coming in as a freshman, she says, she was quiet and shy and “kind of stuck to myself.” But then she joined DUPB, a student organization sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement that plans events for undergraduates to foster spirit and community—and thrived, eventually becoming co-chair and co-president.
She credits her first DUPB advisor, Julianne Toce—assistant director of student engagement at the time and now director of community engagement and programs—with making her feel comfortable and supported. She says Toce was “the first real role model I’ve had in my life.”
Another key mentor was Allie Tookmanian, a DUPB advisor who is now assistant director of new student experience. “Allie was there for me to talk to, about personal stuff, but also, she let me do what I wanted in my [leadership] position and then provided feedback when needed. The lines of communication were always open,” says Murabito. “The biggest thing was having someone in my corner and being my cheerleader.”
She said Toce, Tookmanian (pictured left) and Anderson-Lehman (pictured left), whom she knows from the time she spent in the Student Engagement office, all helped by not only providing guidance and feedback but by “pushing me a little past my limits—knowing I can do it.”
“I believe the mentors I’ve had while being here have been the most integral part of my growth and development as a student, leader and person,” Murabito says.
And now Murabito is paying it forward. Her DUPB experience has taught her a lot about how an institution of higher education works and how to navigate systems across campus when planning events, something she shares with other students and presents workshops on. She also works closely with the current DUPB co-president, Noah Lederer. “I could just tell from the start that he was super energetic and passionate to get started on the work,” she says. “But he needed a little guidance on how to run an organization of 80 people and some background on what all you need to do in that position. So, I took him under my wing.”
At last year’s DPUB banquet, Murabito says, Lederer gave a speech in which he thanked her. “It brought me to tears, if I’m being honest,” she says. “It was the sweetest thing anyone has written for me. I felt I truly made a difference in his life and how he can lead and continue growing.” She asked him if she could have the paper the speech was written on. “I read it sometimes, because I think it just really sums up what I’ve been able to do and how I was able to make an impact.”