New UTeam program to guide students of marginalized groups

Will Kosinski

When Jacob Hood initially arrived at UT, he was intimidated to ask faculty for guidance because not many students from his hometown went to college. Now, as diversity director of the Liberal Arts Council, Hood created a mentorship program this semester for students who may also feel discouraged from seeking help.

UTeam will match faculty, staff and graduate students to undergraduate students within the College of Liberal Arts who are students of color, LGBTQ, first generation, religious minorities or disabled. Hood, an English, sociology and African and African Diaspora studies junior, said he hopes to make these undergraduate students comfortable in seeking help with college.

“A lot of students from marginalized backgrounds do not seek out mentorship or may not know it exists,” Hood said. “I want to create a formal pathway between students from these backgrounds to people within the University. Otherwise, because (the campus is) so large, they may not feel like they belong here, and having that connection can be a really valuable asset to the student.”

Undergraduate students have until Friday to fill out an interest form that specifies which group they identify with. In the spring, the students will be matched with a mentor who has chosen the group they feel they can best lead. Sociology graduate student Marta Ascherio said she is excited to help an undergraduate student who may be at a disadvantage.

“Some students are systematically left out because they don’t have this inner ‘know-how,’” Ascherio said. “This mentorship is a great way to help smart students who do not have as many ways to help them succeed. By being a mentor, I can give (them) a leg up to navigate college a little better.”

Though UTeam is currently only open to students within the College of Liberal Arts who identify with one of the five groups, Hood said he plans to widen the program to all colleges and all backgrounds once resources allow it.

Mathematics sophomore Siqi Zhao, who is from China, said she has been looking for a mentorship program and thinks a UTeam graduate student mentor could offer her unique advice about applying to graduate school as an international student.

“UT is a huge campus, and sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep track of everything,” Zhao said. “This will provide another opportunity for me to interact with other international people here at UT to share our similar experiences and make connections.”