Giving back through peer mentoring

“The team culture has challenged a lot of how I view sport and community. Win or lose, the team had a really positive impact on my growth as a person: I learned how to do things at my own pace and tried new things that might have sounded scary.”

Jenny Yu wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted when looking for a college, but a curious spirit led her to stumble upon Mount Holyoke amid her search. Initially from Seoul, Yu knew she wanted to study math in some practical way and be a part of a supportive learning community. In Mount Holyoke, she found both.

While many of her high school classmates on the West Coast were matriculating to large state universities, Yu was quite impressed with Mount Holyoke's offerings. As she was still thinking about her final decision, she connected with the admission office and a faculty member from the mathematics department, Jessica Sidman. It was that phone call from Sidman that ultimately pushed Mount Holyoke to the front of the line.

“She gave me so much information about the math department and genuinely asked about what I was interested in,” said Yu. “It made me feel like [the College] truly cares about their students. Even though I wasn’t fully committed to Mount Holyoke at the time, it made me want to go.”

Once on campus, Yu felt at home. She was met with kind faces and picturesque scenery, and she began to immerse herself in campus life.

One of the ways she got involved immediately was with the club sport of ice hockey. Yu had never really dabbled in athletics before and had never thought of herself as good at sports, but a team representative connected with her at her first student involvement fair. The rest, she says, is history.

Members taught Yu and a handful of other new teammates to skate, leading her on a three-year experience central to her Mount Holyoke experience. Unconcerned with what the scoreboard showed at the end of each game, Yu is thankful for the friendships and perseverance skills the sport has provided her.

“The supportive team culture has challenged a lot of how I view sport and community,” said Yu. “Win or lose, the team had a really positive impact on my growth as a person: I learned how to do things at my own pace and tried new things that might have sounded scary.”

Math has been of academic interest to Yu for a long time. When she entered her first year at Mount Holyoke, she intended to have it be her core primary focus with the possibility of a double major or minor in computer science. However, her feelings about the matter flipped once she got onto campus.

The computer science department won Yu over, showing her how she could still use her love of math but in a way that was more practical to her.

“As I started to take classes, I became more intrigued in how hands-on the things I was learning in computer science were,” said Yu.

While she didn’t major in math, Yu feels that her love of it has still benefited her academic journey at Mount Holyoke.

“The two disciplines have been very complementary. My experiences in computer science have been helpful in my math classes and vice versa,” said Yu.

She credits her faculty in both departments for pushing her in both areas and creating a community dedicated to furthering women in STEM education.

Yu only had a little experience with mentorship before her college years, but she has found plenty of opportunities to explore it. She connected with student and faculty mentors early on, who were patient with Yu and her naturally inquisitive nature. There were plenty of questions to be asked, and Yu’s positive experience, particularly with peer mentors, led her to pursue those roles by junior year.

She never thought she would find herself in such a position because she didn’t feel adequate to teach or explain concepts. The mentorship provided early on at Mount Holyoke gave her the room to grow and gain confidence. Aside from a role as a peer mentor, she has also served as a teaching assistant for a few classes to give back in the ways others did for her.

“These people have had the most positive impact in my time here and have given me so much,” she said.

At the beginning of her senior year, she was questioning everything: her time spent, the things she had learned and what’s next for her. But as she continues to dwell on her time at Mount Holyoke, she is confident and proud of the person she has been shaped to be.

Contact us

The Office of Marketing and Communications spreads the word about Mount Holyoke College’s distinctive strengths and newsworthy accomplishments.

Christian Feuerstein
  • Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations