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The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students' Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (APAGS-CEMA) has created a national peer-mentoring program specifically for first- and second-year ethnic-minority graduate students.

The program will pair these students with upper-level ethnic-minority students who will advise them on a range of social and professional issues, such as how to finish a master's thesis, present research at APA conventions or juggle academics and social life, says Nadia Talal Hasan, APAGS-CEMA chair and a second-year counseling psychology graduate student at the University of Akron.

"It's especially important for ethnic-minority graduate students to receive mentoring from fellow students," says Hasan. Many programs may not have established mentoring programs for ethnic-minority students, and a student mentor can help ethnic-minority students find a match with faculty in their programs, she adds.

APAGS approved the program in November, and the program is still in the planning stages. APAGS-CEMA will launch a nationwide pilot phase in October that will pair 20 to 25 graduate students with peer mentors through July 2006; the committee then hopes to launch the full program in October 2006.

Each pair will sign a contract at the outset stating the goal of the mentoring-such as to provide advice on getting published in journals-and pairs must exchange at least monthly e-mails for a minimum of one academic year. Signing the contract will provide a sense of focus, Hasan says.

The program eventually will offer an online database containing mentors' curricula vitae and professional interests that mentees can search to select their mentor. This method allows students to find a mentor using many factors, such as ethnic background, personality or research interest, Hasan says.

A team of seven regional diversity coordinators will check in with the pairs every two months via e-mail to see if the mentoring relationship is working out. Coordinators will also supply research opportunities and information on APAGS programs to mentors, says Kelly Janowski, a fourth-year counseling psychology graduate student at the University of Kansas and the program's diversity coordinator for the central region.

APAGS-CEMA is now accepting applications from APAGS members for the pilot program. To apply, visit APAGS-CEMA will store the applications of students it doesn't select for the pilot in its database for the program's full launch.