More than a Mentor

Jan 11, 2021

Two non-traditional students share their experiences in the Peer Mentoring Program.

  • - Holly Weiss

  • - Amy Kisner

Support from a peer got Holly Weiss through some challenging times as a new transfer student in Spring 2020. 

“My mentor would keep up with me,” Weiss said. “She took an interest. She was strong for both of us.” 

The experience inspired Weiss to sign up to be a peer mentor herself, and last fall, the senior psychology major served as a mentor to Amy Kisner, a first-year student majoring in sociology.  

First-year and transfer students have the option of being matched with a peer mentor — a fellow student who can show them the ropes and support them in their first semester at Cal U. Each year, hundreds of upper-level students serve as peer mentors to incoming students. To volunteer, email the Peer Mentoring Program at

Cal U’s Peer Mentoring Program works to match mentors with protégés who have similar majors, interests or experiences. Weiss and Kisner were in a sociology class together in the fall. 

Both are also non-traditional students who work full-time jobs in the social service industry and are seeking to advance their careers. As they’ve gotten to know each other, they’ve discovered other shared interests, including a love of the outdoors. 

Weiss helped Kisner with school-related questions, including registering for classes, but over the course of the semester, they also became friends. 

“We opened up on a personal level with things in our lives, and it has made it easier to turn to her just to talk or vent,” Kisner said. 

Weiss understood that it takes time to build trust. She made an effort to reach out — and to be persistent. 

“I remember with the training, you can’t just say, ‘I’ll be here if you need me,’” Weiss said, referring to the mandatory training all peer mentors receive before being matched. 

Weiss has also applied lessons she learned as a protégé observing her own mentor, including the importance of patience, listening and taking a genuine interest in the other person. 

“I was looking to get guidance and support from the Peer Mentoring Program for my first year of college, and it has been extremely helpful,” Kisner said. “I have appreciated having someone to turn to, that was willing to mentor me, and I never felt judged or bothersome when I went to Holly for assistance.”