An individual’s wellbeing and sense of belonging are closely related. When we talk about belonging, it is often described as feeling like an important member of a group or community. Without this feeling of belonging, individuals can start to feel socially isolated or lonely, which affects overall wellbeing. Making a connection with others can be challenging, especially at a large institution.
This is why Jennifer Andrews-Coffey, Academic Advisor and Program Coordinator, for the Social Development Studies program (SDS) at Renison College implemented a buddy program called “SDS Buddies.” Jennifer knew that creating a sense of belonging was an achievable goal with some hard work and help from her amazing colleagues.
SDS Buddies was created to match new incoming students (mentees) with an upper year student (mentor) in the program. Mentors provide support, encouragement, and information about the program and existing resources. The mentors and mentees are hand matched based on interests, hobbies and goals in the hopes that a strong connection can form between these individuals, contributing to a sense of belonging. Since the program’s inception, SDS Buddies has matched over 120 students and because of its overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, Jennifer and her team are launching an expanded version of this program to include online, mature, and transfer students.
When asked about the impact of the program, Jennifer noted,
"mentees are super happy, but mentors are also really enjoying the interactions!"
Some students even exclaimed that they felt like they’ve met their new best friend in the program— this program definitely seems to be improving the wellness of students within SDS.
Jennifer’s hope is that the buddy program continues to promote connectivity, contributes to students’ sense of belonging, and inspires similar initiatives within the wider UWaterloo community. SDS Buddies is one way to help ease the overwhelming aspect of a new school for incoming students, while fostering friendships. This social connectivity approach to wellness can no doubt inspire others and positively impact sense of belonging at Waterloo!