Asian American Studies Center Mentor Program Empowers UH Students - University of Houston
Skip to main content

Asian American Studies Center Mentor Program Empowers UH Students

Posted May 31, 2022 — As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated challenges for college students, the Asian American Studies Center at the University of Houston launched a peer mentoring program to provide extra support.

Thanks to guidance from the mentors, the mentees have reported benefitting academically and personally, learning strategies for studying, work-life balance and more. So far, the program has involved 63 undergraduates receiving mentorship from 31 doctoral students. For fall 2022, the program will recruit 10 mentors and 20 mentees.

The effort is part of the Multicultural Success Initiative funded by the UH Office of the Provost. The mentees and mentors receive scholarships to participate.

“The mentoring program helped to break down the barriers of isolation and enhanced the sense of student connectedness and belonging during difficult times,” said Professor Yali Zou, who directs the UH Asian American Studies Center in the College of Education. “Mentors helped mentees navigate a multitude of issues, including lack of privacy, Zoom fatigue, family illnesses, financial insecurities, and mental health issues such as loneliness and depression.”

According to the American Psychological Association, the pandemic has exacerbated racism toward Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and contributed to health problems. An APA survey of around 400 Asian Americans in 2020 found that 29% of participants reported an increase in discrimination and were more likely to have problems with anxiety, depression and sleep. Lack of social support was associated with worse physical and mental health.

In the following Q&A, several of the UH mentors and mentees discussed their experiences with the Multicultural Success Initiative program in honor of Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.


Gabriela Hamdieh, mentee

Gabriela Hamdieh, College of Education, human development and family studies major

How has the mentorship program prepared you for success? 

This program has helped me not only develop myself academically but emotionally and professionally as well. I have been able to form a bond with a mentor I look up to and learn more [about] the importance of using my school’s resources to better myself. My mentor has not only helped me prepare for my upcoming research program, but also aided me in time management, self-regulation when I feel burned-out, and creating long-term goals that are achievable yet exciting.

What were the most important lessons you learned as a mentee?

I will paraphrase what my mentor told me during one of our workshops: When you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities, and you don’t know what to do about them, think of them as glass balls. Which glass balls are you fine with dropping and breaking, and which will you need to catch? It’s important to reach goals, to sacrifice things to reach them, but always remember that you are a priority, and you deserve to be kind to yourself.

Judith Perinjelil, mentee

Judith Perinjelil, College of Education, health major

How has the mentorship program impacted you or prepared you for success?

Not many people realize the value of a mentor — someone to navigate you through college, share their wisdom and reassure you whenever you are overwhelmed. With my mentor, I feel secure and supported knowing that someone else has already walked through the journey that I am just starting.

Over the past few months, I can truly say how much my mentor has helped me grow personally, academically and professionally. From advice to shared laughs, I am sincerely grateful to have someone in my corner. I am especially thankful to be a part of the Asian American Studies Center’s MSI mentorship program and hope that more people can benefit from these connections.

What were the most important lessons you learned as a mentee?

I learned how important it is to manage my time efficiently and effectively. My mentor stressed organization as one of the pillars for success and convinced me to change and refine my habits by using strategies that helped me prioritize and stay goal oriented.

Melissa Quach, mentee

Melissa Quach, C.T. Bauer College of Business, marketing and management information systems major

How has the mentorship program impacted you or prepared you for success?

I was able to grow personally and professionally through the guidance of my mentor. Learning about the experiences that my mentor has been through helped me in considering new ways to approach situations. I feel more confident in achieving my goals throughout the college journey with the encouragement and support from this mentorship program.

What were the most important lessons you learned as a mentee?

As a mentee, I learned that goal setting is important in providing a clearer understanding on how you will achieve your goals. It’s also important to have someone else’s perspective of your strengths so that you can utilize them more effectively to succeed.


Andie Beer, mentor

Andie Beer, College of Education, higher education and policy studies Ph.D. student

How did you help prepare your mentees for success?

My mentees are all brilliant students! I worked to find the areas my mentees wanted to grow, whether personal, professional or academic, and we built a plan to meet their needs. Some of the sessions I did were time management workshops, resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and building research projects. I also tried to ensure we spent some weeks destressing and talking about things my mentees were passionate about. Sometimes it is nice, especially during midterm or finals time, to just talk about a TV show or book you love.

What were the most important lessons you passed onto your mentees?

Life is all about balance. I tried to encourage them to not spend all their time on school or their future but think about their now, especially encouraging them to take some time for themselves. My mentees are all incredibly busy, with school, work and organizations. Working on time management practices was very beneficial for them.

Saman Essa, mentor

Saman Essa, College of Education, counseling psychology Ph.D. student

How did you prepare your mentees for success?

My mentees and I talked about the many hurdles we have individually faced, navigating a school system by ourselves, given that our parents were educated in different countries. We focused mainly on the art of narrative writing, discussing how our backgrounds, circumstances and life events influence the people we are today. Our story is often the most important one we craft.

What were the most important lessons you passed onto your mentees?

Ask, ask, ask! Apply for things frequently. Take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. The worst that can happen is being in the same position you are now, but if you receive the offer, you'll have the option to choose something different.

— By Lillian Hoang

— Photos courtesy of the mentees and mentors