Perhaps life is really a series of highways filled with forks in the road — high roads, low roads, and roads less traveled. It makes sense, then, that we need mentors to give us direction, to help us find our bearings when we feel lost.
For four former students — Maurice Foley ’82, Gordon Govens ’85, Keith Reeves ’88, and Philip Weiser ’90 — that mentor was retired political and public policy professor Richard Rubin. In 2004, they started the Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program to institutionalize similar guidance for current and future generations of Swarthmore students.
Rubin’s four former students donated the seed money to start the program, and Rubin himself also contributed a substantial amount to the cause. With the help of then-Vice President for Alumni and Development Dan West, the program became a reality. The first group of students was chosen at the end of the 2004–05 academic year.
The program, Rubin says, aims to provide guidance to students from backgrounds that sometimes lack important links and advice counseling due to economic or social circumstances. Students in the program are provided with mentors from College faculty or staff and, from their sophomore year on, may benefit from further mentoring and participation in paid internships hosted by alumni in established careers. Separate from Career Services, the program has its own database of internships and mentors. Program participants are either nominated by faculty or staff members with whom they already have mentoring relationships, or they may self-nominate and request campus mentors from among the faculty and staff.
“We’re advising them not just in courses but also in life,” Rubin says. “Students coming into Swarthmore have many ideas of what they want to do, and it’s a valuable tool to get to know someone who can angle you for the different possibilities after Swarthmore.”
“The mentoring program supplements the College’s academic advising,” says Dean of First-Year Students Karen Henry ’87. “The academic adviser’s role is to provide information to students on how best to use the curriculum when selecting courses and thinking about a possible course major. A Rubin mentor supplements academic advising by helping students learn how to navigate the College —such as connecting with faculty, accessing academic support, balancing social and academic demands, overcoming some of the social and psychological barriers they might encounter, and understanding the transition issues associated with leaving home and starting college.”
“There’s no manual to show you how to navigate those unknown waters,” Govens says. “That’s what a mentor is for.”