UvA's Academic Diversity Programme (ADP) is a mentoring programme in which students are supported by senior students during their first year at the university. Applications are now open for the upcoming academic year! So, what exactly is ADP, and why is it called a diversity mentoring programme? What has the programme done for the participants, and what do they wish to pass on to future mentors and mentees?
The ADP, established by Amsterdam United, now in collaboration with UvA's Chief Diversity Officer's team, aims to create a place where students can develop their talents and find their way at the UvA. Most students face challenges during the first year of their academic career, but how do you know how to deal with these challenges? Does getting a degree mean carefully reading all your textbooks from cover to cover? How do you deal with that one person in your tutorial group whose ideas of working together do not entirely match your own? And what do you do if you don’t feel connected with your fellow-students?
Wouldn't it be great if you were able to discuss all these things with a senior student who has been there, done that and lived to tell the tale? This is exactly the kind of support you can get if you sign up for the Academic Diversity Programme. Registration is open to everyone.
Why do we call this mentoring programme a diversity programme? Fatima Kamal, the ADP project coordinator on the Chief Diversity Officer's team, explains: 'In addition to the academic aspects, the ADP is a social programme too. We also discuss different diversity-related themes, such as "Gender", ‘’Discrimination’’ and "Identity and Microagressions". This is how we create a safe space where students can discuss diversity and inclusion, share experiences and meet people with similar experiences.'
Over a year ago, Lieneke Glas (who has by now successfully completed a Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology) saw a call for mentors for the Academic Diversity Programme on Amsterdam United's Facebook page, and decided to share her knowledge of how things are done at UvA. After applying for a mentor position, Lieneke was matched with Cultural Anthropology student Lianne. Lianne, who is deaf, wanted to have a sparring partner for her first year at university. One important lesson Lieneke taught Lianne was how to deal with the freedom of choice she was given in selecting electives in her course. Lianne: 'There are so many courses you can take. Lieneke helped me draw up a proper overview, in which I looked at two things: which subjects I genuinely enjoyed taking, but also how well they fit into my class timetable without any overlap with other subjects.’
Last year, Gözde Nur Akarsu (who is doing a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution and Governance) served as a mentor to Dunya (who is doing a Bachelor's degree in Media and Culture). Gözde's own experience was that she had a hard time identifying with other people when she first arrived at the UvA: 'If you don't encounter many people who look like you, you may be inclined to believe that you don't actually belong there. Which obviously isn't true – everyone is equally entitled to attend university. So that's why I wanted to become a mentor. During this academic year, I've helped Dunya master some real degree-related skills, such as working structurally. But when I asked Dunya a little while ago what was the most useful thing she'd learned from the ADP, she said that I'd made her feel like she could do it and that I'd boosted her self-confidence. Which was a great compliment! By now we've become friends.'
We are looking for mentees and mentors in this new academic year. Lianne advises every new UvA student to sign up for the ADP: 'During the early days of your study in particular, it's nice to have a buddy who can support you. That's because during the initial stage of your study programme, the amount of new information thrown at you can be overwhelming.' For her part, Lieneke adds that it is also about being able to feel safe and at home: 'You may think that everyone knows exactly what they stand for and what they're doing, but in actual fact, many people don't. So, it can be difficult if you feel like you don't identify with the image of an average student. But really, it doesn't matter what you believe or what you look like. We mainly wish to show that everyone is allowed and able to feel safe at our university.'
Consult the ADP website for more information and to sign up as a mentor or mentee.