Construction management students working in class

To successfully navigate students through their college experience and secure employment upon graduation, the Department of Design and Construction Management has learned through recent efforts that there are more ways than one to provide advising for students.

“Not every student engages in the same way. We don’t call our weekly department email a failure because it only reaches 10 percent of our students; we think of it as ‘reaching some,’ so we need something additional to reach others,” said Mike Sessions, department chair of the Design and Construction Management Department.

Over the past three semesters, Sessions has developed—and is continuing to develop—a peer mentor program in which each of his capstone students are paired with 3-5 entry level students in a one-on-one mentor/mentee relationship. This program is just one example of how a campus department can help with retention efforts across the university.

The capstone course is heavily focused on leadership and management in the industry. Students learn how to work with people who are struggling to make commitments. The mentoring program is now central to the course content and gives practical management experience for seniors, while also serving entry-level students.

Sessions explained that entry-level students are not forced into this mentoring relationship but are given the opportunity to participate. He also explained that success in this new program is not measured by what percentage of students engage with their mentor. They aim to find those who will simply engage, with hope that their efforts will help change a life.

Mentors are periodically asked about their experience—what they’re learning, what frustrates them, and how to navigate those challenges.

Joshua Miller, a construction management student, said, “As a senior, the Construction Management Mentoring program was beneficial to me because it helped me summarize some of the greatest lessons I learned throughout my studies. I learned even more as I was able to teach others. It was also wonderful to feel like I was giving back to other students and helping them with school, their careers, and their lives. I am passionate about this program because I feel it is a wonderful service to incoming freshmen and a learning opportunity for seniors.”

The program includes six points of engagement from each mentor to each mentee including:

  1. Mentor introductions: Who I am, and how I can help.
  2. What I wish I knew: Connecting students to key campus resources.
  3. Internship Review: How to find one, and what my experience was like.
  4. Networking: Connecting with others in the program.
  5. Department Activities: Banquets, golf scrambles, career fairs, etc.
  6. Wrap Up: Value of the department competitions and how to prepare.

Each mentor-mentee relationship starts via email. Mentors send helpful information to each of their assigned students and invite them to engage. In the future, mentees may even receive course credit for meeting with their mentor.

This winter, a new initiative was launched where three exemplary capstone students will attend the introductory construction management class to present on three of the before-mentioned areas. Then they break into smaller groups, giving the new students the chance to ask more personal questions in a more intimate setting.

Sessions is hopeful the mentoring effort will cause students to engage with their mentor more consistently, as they realize their mentor can be a valuable resource.

“We can easily say that 10 percent of the receiving students are getting something meaningful. Additionally, 80-90 percent of my 30 capstone students each semester are impacted positively. If nothing else, they’re reflecting on their experience here and get to step back and think ‘what did BYU-Idaho do for me? What resources did I draw on? What did I learn on my internship?’” Sessions said.

Adjustments are continuing to be made as Sessions evaluates the progress and effectiveness of the program. While the success rate may seem low, the impact on individual lives is great, and is another step closer in helping students succeed.