Hertie School first-generation mentorship programme now in its second year

37 master’s student mentees paired with 28 faculty and researcher mentors.

The Hertie School’s First-Generation Mentoring Programme is now in its second year. After a successful pilot phase, the programme has become an established part of the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy and is managed by the DEI Office. Currently in its second round, the mentoring programme has matched 37 mentees from five continents with 28 mentors for the Academic Year 2022/2023.

“The programme has proved an incredibly valuable resource for student participants to overcome hurdles in academia that are difficult to grasp when one is the first in a family to attain higher education,” said Cornelia Woll, whose key priorities as Hertie School President include fostering diversity and improving equality in the university community. “We are delighted to continue the Hertie School’s First-Generation Mentoring Programme for the second year in a row.”

“One of the most frequent problems faced by many first-generation students is the lack of support while facing the challenges of pursuing a graduate degree,” observed Professor of Public Management and Political Economy Mark Hallerberg, who oversaw the mentoring programme’s launch while serving as Acting President of the Hertie School. “Our programme offers a platform where first-generation students in our community can take time to reflect on their university experience and receive guidance throughout their Hertie careers.”

Participants of the programme´s pilot season reported that they especially appreciated the insights they gained through the programme as well as the suggestions they received regarding professional development. The first-generation students also enjoyed sharing their specific, oftentimes similar but also different experiences with their fellow mentees.

Horacio Pezzelatto, a Master of Public Policy student who participated in the pilot season, says: “The first-generation mentoring initiative showed me that we might not all be at the same starting point, but if you put in a lot of effort, you can succeed.” Horacio also took the opportunity to participate in an internship as part of a joint programme between the university alliance CIVICA and Google.

The mentoring initiative was first launched in November 2021 with the aim of reducing the inequalities experienced by students whose parents did not attend university; acknowledging the unseen challenges first-generation students might face both in academia and throughout their careers; and fostering the students’ sense of belonging. It builds on an initiative proposed initially by members of our student community led by the SHIELD advocacy group.

The DEI office issues a call for applications for the mentoring programme at the beginning of each academic year. All master’s students whose parents did not attain a higher education degree may apply.

For more information, contact our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office