Julian Poli Joins LaGuardia’s Student Success Mentors to Guide New Students in Spring 2023 Semester

Julian PoliLONG ISLAND CITY, NY (February 22, 2023) — For veteran Student Success Mentors (SSM) like civil engineering major Julian Poli, February is crunch time—the time when they’re gearing up for the start of the spring semester. The new semester means new students starting at LaGuardia, and a new cohort of SSMs to train.

“The primary role of an SSM is to be a mentor for new students, and teach them how to be a successful student at LaGuardia,” said Julian. “We work to set them up for success—make sure they know about college resources, and help alleviate their nerves about starting college by relating to them by sharing our own experiences and what we learned from them.”

The SSM program is overseen by Estefany Gonzaga and David Brandt, of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and it’s part of the First-Year Experience Program led by Dr. Ellen Quish.

While other CUNYs may have something with some similar attributes, LaGuardia is the only college with an SSM program. SSMs are a paid position, and typically work 10-16 hours per week.

SSMs play a big role in new student orientation. “We lead one section (about an hour long) where we talk to new students about what to expect at the college. We go through tools such as MyLaGuardia, Degree Works, Blackboard, and programs like ASAP,” said Julian. “Basically, we tell the students about things they should be thinking about now, if they haven’t done so already.”

SSMs also co-teach the First-Year Seminar (FYS) classes that introduce students to their major areas and college resources. Each SSM teach approximately four FYS classes a semester with a professor. SSMs lead the weekly studio hour for FYS classes.

“During studio hour we teach curriculum in time management, transfer planning, college resources, etc.,” said Julian. “The first week of FYS is mostly reflection (what are you good at it, what do you value doing), then the students are given an excel spreadsheet to track their activities for a week and go through an exercise to evaluate how they’re spending their time. For example, maybe you value family but only spend five hours a week with family. So then they look at whether they want to make changes or what can be done to increase the time they give to activities they value most. We also teach them how to use ePortfolio and how to have good communication with their professors.”

SSMs are encouraged to attend co-curricular activities so they can bring back information to share with students. During FYS, SSMs encourage students to get involved in co-curriculars and college activities, and take advantage of college resources.

“I always tell my students that part of your tuition goes to resources like the Wellness Center or gym, so you might as well use them. If you’re not using these resources, then you’re just going to have a piece of paper saying that you attended classes. But you need to grow as a person, not just read books. If you get a bachelor’s but don’t know how to talk to people, how to get a job, then you’re not doing yourself any favors,” Julian said. “It’s like in engineering we learn that before you build, you need a solid foundation. Otherwise, your building could collapse. Many new students are straight out of high school. As long as you give them resources you give them a big chance for success. College isn’t for everyone. But if they’re here they should give it their all.”

SSMs plan “LaGuardia at Night” activities designed to bring students across the campus together to have fun and connect. “We do these events at least twice a year – once in the fall near Halloween. And we just did a Valentine’s Day-themed craft-making activity, organized by Kaylin Rivera, Computer Science Discipline Leader, that was very well attended,” said Julian. “I always encourage students to do campus activities – the more you do, the more you can relate to students. I promise them that it’s not a waste of their time. Some activities can even open the door to exploring what you already like doing.”

Julian became an SSM in the summer of 2022. To apply to become an SSM, a current student must have a minimum of 24 credits, a 3.0 GPA or above, and can demonstrate knowledge of ePortfolio and resources at LaGuardia. An SSM can also be a LaGuardia graduate pursuing their bachelor’s degree.

In January 2023, Julian was promoted to SSM discipline leader for Engineering—in this position he works with other discipline leaders to teach the newest cohorts of SSMs.

“I love being an SSM, it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Julian, who expects to graduate from LaGuardia in 2024 and then pursue a bachelor’s degree. “You’re given freedom to come up with ideas. I plan to keep working as an SSM until I graduate, and possibly even while I’m in a bachelor’s program.”

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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.


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