Griff Center Mentoring Program doing good on campus

By Janelle Harb
Features Layout Editor

Canisius is well-known for its community of helping one another, and one of the main outlets of service that this school offers is the Academic Mentoring Program through the Griff Center.

Annie Dobies, Assistant Vice President and Director of the Griff Center, enthusiastically explains that the program was established eight years ago through Student Academic Support Services.

Assistant Vice President and Director of the Griff Center Annie Dobies.

Assistant Vice President and Director of the Griff Center Annie Dobies. Photo credit: Canisius College

“The program is targeted to helping individuals meet their needs on an individual basis,” she says. “So we meet with students weekly to help walk them through their semester, we break it down by week and day to help them prioritize what’s the best way to get through their academics, where to build in extracurriculars, and, of course, sleep and exercise,” she says.

The mentoring is not necessarily intended for students who had struggled in high school, or people with low GPAs.  A current mentor in the program, Sierra Bonerb, points out that some mentees have 4.0s. The point, really, is to help students with time management skills, and to introduce them to other resources on campus.

The program, created eight years ago, was originally intended for individuals on academic probation who needed to get back on track. It provides those students the means to readjust.

“I created this on the premise that if we give them the tools to help to be able to change their pattern and lifestyle to be able to meet their needs for the classroom setting.” Dobies says. “[That] often [means] breaking down what they need to do for each class, and how they’re going to do that, and then linking them to resources on campus.

“What we always do is ask them what a success for the week was, and a goal for the week to help focus on the positives. A success could be that they went to every class that week.  We can’t be lofty, we must have achievable goals within that week, and plan for the future.  We go with the idea of, let’s say, someone is struggling with a math problem, and then we ask if they’ve used the tutoring center, and then we walk them over and introduce them so they feel comfortable.  It’s a lot about relationship building and it’s a lot of helping to link them to resources,” Dobies says.

Both Dobies and Bonerb are happy with how the program is meeting its goals, as well as how quickly it is growing. They agree that the Griff Center is constantly trying to make this program better, as well as expand it for the future.

“As new ideas grow, and as we learn, we apply these ideas to the program.  That’s how it’s gotten to be from what it was to what it is now.  Because it’s always changing, it’s always growing,” Bonerb says.

The mentors go through a training program, and they get all the resources they need from this toolbox of things that students may need.

As for potential mentees, they are more aware of the program than ever.

“With the Griff Center formed and running orientation now, we are telling these new freshmen about this program,” Bonerb says. “So they’re aware that it’s out there, [and] they’re asking for help.  So that’s a really cool thing that’s happening now.  So it’s not like they have to find out because of their progress report, and that someone suggested it, or through a friend.  We’re telling them as soon as they’re here, and even telling their parents, and explaining this program.”

When asked about how the mentor was matched with the mentee, Dobies went on to explain that they try to match the student with someone who has a background in problem subject area.

“If it’s a student that’s requesting it, so they’re not on probation, they’re not an athlete, and I’ve met with them, I’ll ask them if they prefer a male or female, a professional staff member or grad student, just so the connection is a little bit easier for them.  Someone today had said they weren’t sure who they wanted but they mentioned that they were a biology student, and so I connected them with our biology grad student and I asked him he minded taking this on, and they ended up linking together.” Bonerb says.

“The hardest thing is coming through the door, and just asking for help.  But if you can get through the door, we can try to help you in every way we can,” Dobies says, “but you have to be open minded and ready to hear some “no’s.”  And that’s hard for some people, it can be really hard for them to digest that it’s something that they’re going to have to digest, and work on in themselves.  But it’s a learning experience.  I’m okay with someone going away like “I can’t believe she said that!” I’m okay with that because I’m hoping that they’re thinking and that they’re challenging themselves to think about what they’re doing and the moment that they’re in.”

Annie Dobies can be found in the Griff Center, and Sierra Bonerb in Old Main 317.  Their emails are and, respectively.

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