Considered by many to be a hidden gem, the Faculty Mentor Program (FMP) at Stan State has been helping students accomplish their dreams for more than 35 years. In his sixth year as the program’s director, Jason Pourtaverdi said it serves as a bridge between students and resources.
“We are primarily dealing with first-year college students, many with responsibilities and parents who say, ‘You do not have time to play around,’” Pourtaverdi said. “What I bring is fun. Many students come to college and graduate with a 3.8 but they never get a full college experience. You get four years at this thing, and you get work for the rest of your life, so we try to incorporate events that are fun.”
In the beginning, FMP was primarily for first-generation students but since Pourtaverdi’s arrival, he has opened it up to all students who are looking for a mentor.
“It’s all about being inclusive and creating a sense of belonging,” Pourtaverdi said. “If you want that connection, then we will help with that. To me, that is what we are here for — to build community. We know from statistics that building connections and having students feel like they belong results in higher retention rates and higher graduation rates.”
The highlight of the year for participants is the annual retreat. The three-day event transforms participants of the program and instills a sense of family. This year’s retreat took place at Wonder Valley Resort in Sanger, CA, and was packed with games and bonding activities.
Senior and sociology major Jahel Marin attended the retreat but regrets that she waited so long to join FMP.
“I wish I had known about this program sooner because if you’re shy like me, this is a great way to get out of your shell,” Marin said. “The confidence I built helped me forget all my fears.”
Of the 30 or so students who attended, Marin only knew two, but she came back to campus with many great new friends and memories.
One of Marin’s favorite moments from the trip was a group skit, which included some dancing and making TikTok videos.
“Performing in front of the whole group was scary but because everyone believed in me and was confident I could do it. I was able to get over my fears.”
The bonds between mentors and protégés are a given but after the retreat, a lot of people realized those aren’t the only relationships formed there.
Lisa Timmons is a child development and psychology professor and an FMP mentor. This year was her second time attending the retreat. Before joining, she struggled to meet and interact with other faculty members. But after becoming a mentor and attending last year’s retreat, she was able to familiarize herself with her colleagues.
“I was really excited because everyone talked about the retreat being a really enticing part of FMP,” Timmons said. “FMP has been one of the ways that I have been most able to directly connect with students outside of the classroom, and I had a lot of fun with interactions during the retreat. It is really invigorating.”
Pourtaverdi said FMP has expanded and welcomes staff and administrators to serve as mentors.
“My thing is, if you want to be a resource to the students then I’m not going to tell you no. No matter if you are a staff member or whatever, everyone goes through the same training.”
Pourtaverdi wants students to feel a sense of inclusion.
“Our theme this year has been belonging,” Pourtaverdi said. “We have been making sure that everyone feels they belong. We are a program on paper, but we are a family in action.”
Pourtaverdi also wants to develop a stronger relationship with and plan more events at the Stanislaus State Stockton Campus but for now, he is focused on strengthening the program at the Turlock campus one student at a time. "We have people volunteering their time because they believe in this program,” Pourtaverdi said.