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Friday, December 8, 2023

Tools for Success

April 11, 2023
Nicholas Humphries

How Mentors Ensure New Students Experience WWU to the Fullest Extent

Nicholas Humphries

One of the first things freshmen do when they arrive on campus is choose a mentor. The mentor program is a unique Walla Walla University experience that gives students a chance to speak with a caring adult about their new college experience. Many of the mentors are passionate about their job, so The Collegian interviewed two mentors about giving students the tools for success at WWU. 

Mikelle Reiswig is a long-time mentor and has participated in the program since its inception 13 years ago. She described the mentor program as a way to make the students’ transfer from high school to college more seamless.  

Reiswig sees her role in a unique light. She said, “I always tell my students that I am not your teacher, I am not your advisor, I am not your mom, I am not your dean; I am your biggest fan and want to see you succeed more than anyone else.” [1] Reiswig advocates for student success by helping them navigate their freshman year. Sometimes her job can be as simple as listening to a student vent about daily problems or telling them where to find places on campus to answer their questions. 

Most mentors work with 8-12 students, but not Reiswig. She is so passionate about her job that she mentors 42 students this school year alone. Reiswig is also a mentor coach, holding meetings with other mentors once a week to go over training and curriculum. Reiswig’s goal is to “reach the students now where they need, not just have a blanket script.” [2] She does this by not only training mentors, but by constantly adjusting their curriculum to reflect the feelings of the freshman class, which is gauged each week in these meetings. 

Some students spend their whole life at one school, which makes it easy to become comfortable with teachers. But when they come to college, all the professors are new. Because of this, Reiswig’s biggest piece of advice for freshmen is to communicate with their professors and to use the resources given to them, like the Student Development Center.  

Reiswig loves the mentoring program because it is extremely rewarding. She began working at WWU in recruitment and primarily delt with 18 and 19-year-old students. “Somehow the people I work with never get older, but they’re the people I am most passionate about. I am passionate about higher education. I am convinced that students change more their freshman year than any other time in their lives. They figure out who they are and what they stand for, and how they treat people and are willing to be treated. I love that transition and watching students flourish. If I can play a tiny piece in that, it’s a good thing.” [3] 

Suzan Willard is another mentor who sees the mentor program as a chance to achieve new goals and teach students new habits. Those goals include teaching students how to study, how to navigate relationships, find a major, and resolve roommate issues. A student recently told her, “I wasn’t sure I needed a mentor, but I don’t know of any other place where I can come for a half hour and talk about myself.” [4] The student expressed her concern for other students and her parents but appreciated the opportunity to speak openly about her life. 

Willard knows the mentoring program is a unique WWU experience. Her son went to Andrews University but fell ill his freshman year. “The minute it happened, I thought, man, I wish they had mentors at Andrews.” [5] She appreciates the simple things mentors do to prepare students for success, like asking students if they have had enough sleep or are eating correctly. 

The growth that freshmen experience is extensive, but parents can sometimes have a hard time letting go. As a mentor, she appreciates the chance to give advice to students but not be attached in the same way that parents are. Willard feels blessed, honored, and lucky to be a mentor. 

Freshmen experience some of the greatest challenges and triumphs in their lives at WWU. The mentor program aims to smooth this transition process and can be extremely beneficial to students. Although the mentor program takes time and commitment to meet with students, mentors ultimately feel an extreme sense of joy when helping students.  



  1. Interview with Mikelle Reiswig, 5/4/2023.

      2-3. Ibid. 

  1. Interview with Susan Willard, 5/4/2023.
  2. 5. Ibid.
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