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Program targets diversity at BU

Nov. 4, 2004

By JOSH HORTON, staff writer

Baylor Diversity Initiatives kicked off a new mentoring program, Providing Avenues for Student Success (PASS), Tuesday with a ceremony at the Harrington House.

David Ortiz, special assistant for diversity initiatives, said the program pairs first-year minority students with a Baylor faculty or staff member. More than 60 students, faculty and staff participated in the program.

Robyn Kenagy | Lariat staff
Office of Access and Learning Director Sheila Graham Smith talks with Arlington freshman Blanca Velasquez, whom she will mentor, at a PASS ceremony in the Harrington House on Tuesday.
"I hope this number becomes exponential in years to come," Ortiz said. "I truly believe we've done something special here."

Those participating in the program learned who they will be paired with for the rest of the academic year at Tuesday's ceremony. Each participant received a card containing a foreign word meaning "friends." At one point during the event, the mentors and students tried to find each other by matching the words on their cards. Ortiz said more than 35 languages were used on the cards, representing the diversity of those in the program.

He said PASS provides structure for the mentors and students to pair up and decide when and how often to meet.

"Research shows that programs like this have high success rates in helping students find a sense of belonging, getting engaged in university life and inviting avenues for success," he said.

He also said Baylor's Students Taking On Prejudice (STOP) works as his advisory board.

Jeffrey Wang, a Dallas senior and member of STOP, said the organization has "helped develop, revise and fine tune" the PASS program.

David Hao, an Albuquerque, N.M. freshman and mentee in the program, was born in Harbin, China and said he is interested in race issues.

"My expectations are how to be trained to be a mentor, and just have support," he said. "I want to try and find out how things work so I can make a difference."

Dr. Keith Francis, associate professor of history, is serving as a PASS mentor. He said he decided to volunteer because his mentor in college convinced him to be a historian and has helped guide his career after school.

"I always said if I had the opportunity to be a mentor, I would," he said. "It's just giving back."