Cultivating connection through differences

DEI peer mentoring group helps new students find their campus community

| Author: CBAnews

Members of the DEI Mentorship program in the CBA
Members from the CBA's DEI Mentorship program pose for a group photograph in Grawn Hall.

Navigating college as an incoming student is an exciting, yet intimidating, journey. As a first-generation student, a student with a visible or invisible disability, a minoritized individual or someone who identifies with other marginalized groups, the experience can often be much more difficult.

Housed within Central Michigan University’s College of Business Administration, and open to all first-year students across campus, the DEI Mentorship Program pairs upperclassmen with incoming freshman to provide these students with guidance, support and simply a friendly face, with the aim of improving student success and retention.

As a freshman, alum Jenna Mueller, ’23, attended different events to learn how to get involved and meet others, but couldn’t find the connection she was looking for.

“As a new student to campus, I struggled to find my place,” Mueller said. “In reflecting on what I could have used when I was a freshman, this program became an opportunity to create something where everyone could come together and feel a part of a bigger group.”

Mueller, then a junior studying human resources management, was tapped by CBA Associate Dean Misty Bennett to bring the DEI Mentorship Program to life at the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

She started by leaning on her own network of peers to serve as mentors. Then, she focused on recruiting freshman to create mentor/mentee pairs. From coordinating with on-campus representatives to speak at the program’s events to hosting a DEI Mentorship Program dinner and laying the parameters for the mentor/mentee relationship — twice-per-month meet-ups — Mueller worked diligently to start the program from scratch.

Five student pairs were part of the first cohort.

Alum Paige Ciuzicki, ’24, was a senior studying marketing and information systems when she became a mentor.

“I was so nervous because I really wanted my mentee to like me, and also because I wanted her to feel like I was someone who could help her,” Ciuzicki said. “I put myself in her shoes and approached the relationship with what I felt I needed when I was in her position.”

Ciuzicki and her mentee talked about goals and internships, and built their relationship over regular get-togethers.

While the goal of the program is to help budding students find their footing, it gives back to the mentors in many ways, too.

“It was so much fun,” Ciuzicki said. “The sense of accountability and leadership I felt and the ability to just help someone else was such a learning and growth opportunity for me.”

In the program’s second year, it saw double the number of participants. It also saw a leadership change. When Mueller graduated in December 2023, Ciuzicki took over the program coordinator position.

For Bennett, the evolution of the program and its impact on those involved has been most rewarding.

“The program has been incredible so far for everyone involved,” she said. “What’s fascinating is how many mentees finish the program and then want to be a mentor. The person they connected with was such a valuable relationship for them and gave them a tremendous sense of community — when they come out on the other side of that experience they want to give it back to others. For us in CBA, we want every student to feel welcome, and the sense of community this program has built is powerful.”

As the program approaches its third year, the hope of its first coordinators, Mueller and Ciuzicki, is that it continues to grow, yes, but also that it always remains a place focused on community.

“If you’re new to CMU, this is a great place to start,” Mueller said. “You have someone right away who wants to get to know you, and your part of a group of people who are all here to make friends and support each other.”

For more information about the DEI Mentorship Program or to enroll as a mentor or mentee, email Associate Dean Misty Bennett at

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