Friendly Faces in Unfamiliar Territory
To incoming students, college can seem like a vast uncharted territory. That’s why, in 2012, Maranatha Baptist University introduced its First-Year Navigator program. The program pairs five to ten new students with an experienced faculty or staff member called a Navigator who helps them traverse the daunting college terrain. As the Navigators get to know their students, or “Navigees,” the newcomers grow to feel like they are a part of a campus family.
The types of support the Navigators provide are as diverse as their roles at MBU. Many offer both on and off-campus support—homemade treats and encouraging notes in students’ mailboxes, and bonfires, game nights, and home-cooked meals off campus. “Students really appreciate the time to get off campus and be in a house,” shares Navigator Melissa Chapman, director of MBU’s Kiddie Kampus. These short breaks from dorm life can refresh students who may feel homesick or burdened with responsibilities.
However they choose to accomplish it, the Navigators share one goal: to help students feel welcome at MBU.
Meeting the Challenge
In addition to forming relationships, the Navigator program endeavors to conquer some of the challenges that incoming students face. Hectic schedules, unfamiliar living arrangements, and heavy course loads can make for a difficult transition into college life.
“I think about how nervous and lost I felt when I first stepped foot on campus as a freshman,” says Maranatha alumnus Peter Wright, a current staff member and Navigator. Having passed through these difficulties as students themselves, the Navigators can empathize with stressed and homesick students and offer helpful advice.
“Practical help has many forms,” say Navigators Steve and Jody Kibler. Navigators can answer questions, give rides to the airport, point their Navigees toward financial aid or scholarships, and help in countless other ways. Most importantly, they can pray for God’s guidance and provision to be evident in their students’ lives.
“Once a Navigee, Always a Navigee”
Though the program is designed primarily to guide students through their first year, the friendships formed between students and their MBU mentors can continue throughout a student’s college career and even beyond graduation. Chapman endeavored to keep in touch with her first group of Navigees throughout all four years of their time at college, with many still coming over for food and fellowship. As Jody Kibler puts it, “Our motto is ‘Once a Navigee, always a Navigee.’”
Navigators across the board agree that their lasting relationships with students make the program worthwhile. “It is very rewarding to see these kids that we would not have had contact with otherwise come through the university, grow spiritually, academically, and socially, and then go on into life and ministry,” reflects Wright.
Though the challenges of college can seem to swell up like stormy seas, the First-Year Navigators are here to guide students toward the right path for success. As new students begin mapping the courses they will take throughout their college careers, the Navigators, with their godly friendship and counsel, are welcome companions on one of life’s most thrilling voyages.