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Mentoring plan to strengthen Asian American community

STANFORD--Rick Yuen, assistant dean of students and director of Stanford's Asian American Activities Center, is looking for Asian American faculty and staff members to volunteer as mentors for Asian American undergraduates who will be starting their sophomore year in October.

Begun as a pilot project during 1993-94, the Asian American Interactive Mentoring Program successfully matched 35 students with mentors from all parts of the campus. So far, Yuen has received more than four dozen applications from students who want to participate in the program during the coming academic year. Responses from prospective mentors have been slower coming in, he said.

The center's advisory board worked for 10 months to develop the pilot program. The thought behind the project was that there has been little or no opportunity for Asian American undergraduates to establish ongoing relationships with older Asian American role models in the normal course of four years at Stanford.

"If you look at the numbers," Yuen said, "the difficulty for our students in making any significant contact with Asian faculty and academic staff is very clear."

For the past four years, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, Asian Americans comprised 24 percent of the freshman classes. They are projected to constitute a slightly higher percentage of the 1994 entering class.

The total number of undergraduates enrolled in the past academic year, including transfer and international students, was 6,573. Of that number, 1,552 - or 23.6 percent - were Asian American or Pacific Islander. The total number of graduate students enrolled was 7,429, for a total student body of 14,002. Of the students enrolled in graduate and professional school programs 785 - or 10.5 percent - were Asian American. The overall percentage of Asian American students on campus was 16.7.

The number of Asian faculty members rose to 94 in the 1993-94 academic year, or 6.7 percent of the total faculty of 1,398. The faculty total for the three schools that grant undergraduate degrees - Earth Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences- - was 708, of whom 48, or 6.7 percent, were Asian. Thus, the ratio is 32:1 for Asian American undergraduates to Stanford Asian faculty in schools that offer undergraduate courses, compared to an overall ratio of 9:1 for undergraduates to Stanford faculty in schools that offer an undergraduate curriculum.

The last available demographic breakdown of regular staff, as of the end of the 1992-93 fiscal year, gave a total of 5,716 staff members, with 706 - or 12.3 percent - Asian.

The idea for the mentoring program came from the three student members of the 11-member Asian American Activities Center advisory board. What the students envisioned was culturally oriented rather than career oriented interaction, Yuen said.

Yuen stressed that mentors are not expected to take on the role of parent or counselor, but rather that of an older friend who keeps in touch with the student on a regular basis - at least once a week - during the academic year. Asian American students who participated in the pilot program wanted to be able to discuss not only their day-to-day interests with their mentors, said Yuen, but also issues of "how to negotiate the university," real or perceived glass ceilings, personal goals and values, how to raise future children, defining ethnic identity and a host of other "real-life" questions. Mentors who participated in the pilot project were asked to evaluate the interactive program, as were student participants. One of the evaluators, Dr. Alan Yeung, stressed that the rewards of fostering close mentor-student relationships are not one-sided. The personal benefits accrue to both mentor and student, he said.

Yuen said that he and a 1994 graduate in human biology, Anne Wong, hope to match students and mentors by the middle of September according to stated academic, ethnicity and academic preferences. They plan to hold two orientation sessions at the start of fall quarter - one for mentors and the other for student participants.

For more information or an application, call Yuen or Wong at the Asian American Activities Center, 723-3681.


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