APM Student Profile: Pinda Atwal

Helping others succeed is something that greatly interests me. Architecture lends itself to a very social environment where the studio culture allows everyone to help one another. Academic Peer Mentoring has allowed me to engage with students from different year groups and share my knowledge of what I have learnt within my degree. Arranging weekly discussions is something that is vital to track my mentees progress, however I am always willing to help whether I am in the studio or having to arrange a time and a place for discussion.

Mentoring has helped me understand that it is possible to learn from students of all years and to keep seeking knowledge. Since completing the extracurricular module Student Mentoring at University I have been able to understand the requirements of mentoring and put them to practice with my mentee. Topics addressed range from equality and diversity, learning styles to even the characteristics required from a mentor.

Overall the peer mentoring scheme and module have helped me understand and experience situations that can also be applied to future careers and real life situations outside of university.

By Pinda Atwal
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Samantha Onyemenam

To me, being a mentor was an opportunity to give back to others by using my experiences and the things I learnt to motivate and help others through their time in the Kent School of Architecture.

I currently have one mentee, in the first year, who I have meetings with fortnightly. Similar to when I was in her position, she initially was a bit confused about what skills she needed to possess, what she needed to do to achieve brief requirements and how to prepare for crits. This prompted me to think about my time in first year: what I wish I knew, what I know now, what I wish I had done, the most effective ways I found to prepare for crits and seminar presentations and how those can help my mentee.

Fortnightly, we begin our meetings by going over the feedback from my mentee’s tutor and brainstorming ways that the feedback can enhance her design while considering ideas inspired by a wider range of precedents. Afterwards, we discuss aspects which my mentee is unsure about, such as particular terminology or ways she could effectively represent some of her ideas.

I believe that the mentoring scheme has not only been of benefit to my mentee, but also of benefit to me as it causes me to reflect on what I know, improve on my communication skills and be inspired by both old and new precedents, concepts and ideas that can enrich my designs. I will recommend this scheme to anyone who is considering being involved in it and I would be pleased to continue participating in it next year.

By Samantha Onyemenam
Stage 2, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Giorgia Golzio

I am both a mentor and mentee, thus experiencing both sides to the Academic Peer Mentoring (APM) programme. I did not have a mentor in first year, however, I had heard a lot of positives about having one. This is what motivated me to become a mentor myself, as I knew how beneficial it could be for mentees, especially first year students who are completely new to the course. My experience as a mentee this year has also been extremely useful, so I would obviously want to be able to help someone else in the same way.

Mentor meetings are mainly a great opportunity to discuss anything you were not sure of or did not mention during design tutorials. Receiving multiple opinions is fundamental in Architecture as it offers you different angles in solving a design problem, and in turn broadening your creative mind. Mentors are different to design tutors as they share the struggle of the same or similar projects, meaning mentors have more of an insight into the demands of the course due to this prior first-hand experience. They also know the tutors much better than younger years and exactly what they are looking for in your designs.

I mentor four students in first year and I meet with them once a week for about an hour to discuss anything they need guidance with. An example of this could be how to develop floor plans or concepts. It is always interesting to see what ideas people in the year below you will come up with for the same projects you once did before as it opens your mind to ways of thinking that are different to your own, further improving the skill to be able to tackle design problems in multiple ways. Being a mentor is therefore great exercise for your own mind as you are constantly practicing and even developing your architectural skills.

The mentoring programme is also a great social opportunity. A feature that I love about the Kent School of Architecture is that the years all tend to mix and, as a result, I have made many friendships that I would not have anticipated if it were not for the environment at the school. The social aspect of APM also means you can work with people from the other years and exchange ideas or simply find inspiration out of conversations! This is so motivating as you are always surrounded by ideas bouncing back and forth, making the whole experience of the course much more engaging as you can bond with others about interests you share, in this case Architecture.

Whether you are a mentor or a mentee you can always benefit from APM, as it enhances your creative and social skills, both essential in the world of architecture for not only in terms of studies but also in the workplace itself.

By Giorgia Golzio
Stage 2, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Mentor: Na’eemah Mehta

Despite the vast array of information available to a student, there is no substitute for the wisdom gained through experience. Often the conception of a design relies on your ability to pull together intangible ideas and theories and attempt to create something substantial from them. I believe that this is where the true strength of the Academic Peer Mentoring system is demonstrated, often I find that even 20 minutes talking to my mentor yields more beneficial points of reference than a whole day searching through the internet in an attempt to find relevant information.

As a second year student I find myself more informed and aware on what to look for and how to talk about architecture, allowing sessions with my mentor to be enlightening and productive as I gain the value of an additional perspective. Likewise, I find myself able to inform and help guide my own mentees by providing my own experience and sharing knowledge with them. The process of being involved in another architects’ design process allows a flow of ideas and the chance to inform and cultivate the way we think of architectural values and principles.

Of course the importance of cooperation and a need for commitment is imperative to ensure that the sessions are productive and useful. My role as a mentor means that I need to be able to organise meetings, evaluate what will be beneficial to my mentees and keep a handle on time management, skills that I have no doubt will be beneficial to me in the future. Moreover, the ability to create an environment and conversation where my mentees feel capable to entrust me with even their most farfetched ideas and opinions is an invaluable skill that enhances my own ability to communicate with others. The creation of a space that allows such conversation is also invaluable to me as a mentee, it is much less intimidating to present ideas that you yourself aren’t sure of to a mentor before your tutor and gaining their advice on how to present it, often their encouragement helps bolster confidence in my own ideas and my own instinct as an architect.

By Na’eemah Mehta
Stage 2, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Bahnnisikha Misra

As a mature international student in my first year, I was keen to accept help in any form to ease the transition into life as a student at Kent School of Architecture, and my peer mentor, a Stage 3 student was the most valuable point of contact at the time. From him I learned about the myriad resources that have since helped my design process, efficient work habits, how to make the best of the School’s workshop and IT labs, and which skills to develop to increase employability. Apart from helping me get the most out of life at University, he inspired me to tap into my creativity and be unafraid of experimenting in my projects.

Subsequently in Stages 2 and 3, I have continued to engage in the Academic Peer Mentoring Scheme, both as a mentee and a mentor. While my mentors continue to open my eyes to the world of possibilities in architecture, I have had great satisfaction in passing it on to my mentees.

Being a mentor involves time, investment and the will to expend energy on another student’s project, sometimes in the midst of one’s own tight deadlines. However, through the exchange of views and in understanding the design process of each of my mentees, I believe that I have learned as much from them as they have from me. It is exciting to be part of another designer’s progression of ideas, and to appreciate first-hand how concepts emerge and progress in somebody else’s mind.

Through the mentoring experience, I have developed the ability to critically analyse each scheme t and find creative solutions to various problems; to provide my views in a way that compels and inspires my mentees to find efficient solutions without handing them a definitive answer. I have learned to create a comfortable environment in which someone initially unfamiliar to me can feel comfortable discussing their academic uncertainties. I have also learned to communicate constructive feedback in a way that stimulates thought rather than ridicule.

Despite the Academic Peer Mentoring being a professional programme, I have been fortunate enough to form friendships that go beyond the scheme, and grown to care for my mentees on a more personal level.

I am confident that the skills I have acquired will prove valuable in my career after university and help me get the best out of life at practice.

By Bahnnisikha Misra
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Jameela Ahmed

Having been a part of the mentoring scheme as a mentor for two years and a mentee for three, I have been able to appreciate first-hand how valuable mentoring sessions can be. These sessions, whether one-on-one or in the form of group discussions, are a great way to bounce ideas off each other outside a classroom environment and get exposed to a wider range of viewpoints and perspectives. It was very interesting for me to see through the eyes of my mentees and uncover radically different concepts and responses to the same design brief. At the same time, discovering their personal aspirations and visions for their projects led me to find different ways of expressing myself while giving advice. It pushed me to present my suggestions and opinions to them in a way that they identified with rather than sticking to one standard method of communication. I can now convey my thoughts with greater clarity, whether through sketches and drawings, in conversation or while providing explanations to questions over email.

Mentoring has affected how I view my own ideas and projects as well. Showing my previous work to the mentees has not only been a method of providing them with an overview of their upcoming project, but also an opportunity to look back at my own work. Revisiting past work at a later date has allowed me reflect more maturely on what worked and didn’t work in my projects. In helping them tackle similar difficulties, it has offered me a chance to find out which methods worked best for me and apply what I learned to my current work.

Although mentoring offers many additional advantages and opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee, at its core, I find that the scheme has always been about encouraging students to support and learn from each other as they make their way through this challenging course.

By Jameela Ahmed
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

Academic Peer Mentor Student Profile: Mary Villaluz

I was first introduced to the Academic Peer Mentoring scheme in my first year at the Kent School of Architecture, and was assigned a third year student to be my mentor. As a first year student, new to the school, my mentor helped me gain confidence in design by going through his own techniques and by talking to me about his own experiences as a student.

After learning so much from my mentor in my first year, I then decided to pass on what I had learned to the next year’s intake, so I applied to become a mentor myself. As a mentor, I would arrange to meet up with my mentees to discuss any issues and problems they would have regarding the course. The mentee-mentor relationship works well as mentors can advise and guide the lower years on their projects since they studied the modules previously.

Mentors are on hand to offer assistance throughout the entire design process from initial conception to final presentation and help with project management techniques like time management, computer program literacy and presentation techniques. Being able to explain the whole project and design to an external person not involved in the module can be very helpful to bounce ideas off and to see the project and design with a fresh set of eyes which can lead to the discovery of a flaw in their design or areas of potential improvement.

Being both a ‘mentee’ and a ‘mentor’ for the past two years has allowed me to build connections in the studio with students from years above and below, as well as enabling me to improve my own critical analysis skills which I subsequently use on my own designs to further improve them.

The mentoring program is an invaluable resource that shouldn’t be underestimated by students in all years and should be fully utilised as a resource that the Kent School of Architecture offers.

Mary Villaluz
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

Academic Peer Mentor – Matthew Bullock

Stage 5 – MArch

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.William Arthur Ward

During my Part 1 year in industry I was shown this quote and I could immediately relate to it from throughout my education, in both a positive and negative manner. Finding, or having the luck of having, educators who go beyond the curriculum and their pay grade to truly aid in the growth of one’s education seems like a rarity. Yet as a first year student I had some of the fifth years as my design tutors, all of which I found amongst the most understanding, interesting and inspiring educators I have ever had.

From that moment I knew I wanted to teach at some point later on in my career. Mentoring whilst I was a 4th year student seemed like a great opportunity to begin this process and try to replicate what my student tutors had achieved with me.

As a mentor, I believed my role to be important in encouraging students to challenge themselves rather than conforming to the normality, experimenting with a wide variety of mediums and directing them to sources of information which I myself constantly use to develop my own work and process. Because of my own experience, I was able to share my own knowledge of similar challenges. With this openness, I believe that ‘my mentees’ felt very comfortable and relaxed discussing their projects with me. Through these discussions I was able to help them find their own way towards their final schemes, which they believed in, had confidence in, and ultimately enjoyed.

This connection with the undergraduates provided an ability to integrate myself further within the school which I really valued. Mentoring additionally provided me with a rare opportunity to develop my own critical analysis and design process, whilst also strengthening my communication skills by challenging and developing ideas through a variety of processes.

On reflection, I am very proud and impressed with all the mentees I worked with and I look forward to hearing how they are doing now they are beginning their year in professional practice or third year of studies. As long as I inspire in whatever scale, volume or manner, I shall feel like I have succeeded as a mentor.

I would thoroughly recommend becoming a mentor if you like helping others, wish to understand the benefits critical analysis can have to your own work, and also want to develop personally as a student and a mentor.

Mentee: Linda Malaeb

Being a mentee gives you the opportunity to talk to someone who has been in your position about anything regarding your architecture degree. This can be regarding anything from your modules to the way you manage your time with the considerable workload.

I found having a mentor very helpful since you have another person to talk to regarding your design projects other than your tutor. In architecture opinions are very important and hearing another opinion about your design is very useful; your mentor can give lots of advice on how to tackle certain issues with your plans and point you in the right direction.

If I was confused about my tutor’s comments from the previous tutorial, my mentor would help me understand what was really the problem in my design scheme.

It is useful to talk to a student rather than a member of staff, since it is not as formal and a mentor is there to just make you feel more comfortable with the work and the stress that architecture can give.

I found it better to manage my time this year since I used to do all my work for the tutorial for my meeting with my mentor, and then from there I would change a few things and go to the tutorial with all my work done and checked already by someone else higher up in the school.

My mentor helped also check my CV since I was looking at applying for an internship and he gave me lots of advice on how to make a portfolio. Knowing people who are higher up in the school is also important as you can learn a lot from them: my mentor always showed me his work and I went to watch his crits which helped me to have an idea of what is expected in the future regarding the quality of work and presentation.

I found having a mentor very useful in general with my architecture education and I would really recommend it to everyone.

Mentee: Miles Heath

My experience of being mentored through my 3rd year was very much a positive one. It is not only just an educational activity but a social one. Taking part in this scheme has taught me to think about design in a more mature way, helped me develop new techniques in which to communicate my ideas and urged me to deliver a much higher standard of work. This has been achieved by having the fresh and critical guidance outside of a standard tutorial. This also exposed me to a high level of master’s work and gave me an insight into the process that my mentor went through to accomplish his own design ideas. As mentioned, developing myself as a designer was not the only perk. Mentoring is a much more relaxed and informal event which becomes more of a friendly talk rather than a coordinated meeting with a tutor. I have, as a result, made friends as well as progressing myself.

Academic Peer Mentor – Robert Allcoat

Stage 4 – MArch

Last year I mentored a number of Stage 3 students. The first point that struck me about the Academic Peer Mentoring scheme was the objectivity required; architecture, however, is a very subjective course, especially when it comes to design projects. Striking a balance between the two was quite a challenge.

From the offset most of the mentees had many questions, both about the year ahead and the Part I year out. To me this demonstrated the mentees’ curiosity and their desire to find out more. I had been through the same course and had had similar projects to them, so I appreciated the type of questions they might have and the value of extra help.

Throughout the year we covered a variety of topics and, from presentation techniques and styles to specific project questions, advice with CVs and portfolios for their coming year out to the fundamentals of line-weights. Quite often a question would put me on the spot, to which I would not know the answer; in that situation you simply have to be honest and say you do not know, or try to help them find the answer later on.

It is the first year the School of Architecture has been part of the mentoring scheme and I think it has worked very well. It not only provides the mentees with another outlet to discuss project work and ideas, and to put forward specific questions; it gives them support from someone on the same level with them — albeit with a little more experience – to hopefully guide them without the pressure of a student-tutor relationship.

From the perspective as a mentor it has helped me to think of different ways to explain something that might – at first glance – seem evident to me, reinforcing the importance of clear communication. I appreciate how important and valuable it can be to discuss ideas and topics with someone who perhaps is not so familiar with your project work, and that they may offer a completely different perspective on it. The mentoring scheme is certainly something I would like to participate in again next year.

Mentee: Charlotte Middleton

The mentoring scheme set up by the university was invaluable during my third year in the school. With the uncertainty about life after university, the mentor was there to answer questions and reassure from first-hand experience. I received help in improving my CV and portfolio, strengthening my application for Part 1 placements. During the year, it was useful to talk to a student who had already been through the projects and was able to advise on time-keeping, organisation and aid with the designs themselves. The scheme has been extremely helpful for me and I shall definitely be signing up as a mentor to give back to it.

Student Peer Mentoring Programme

The Academic Peer Mentoring (APM) scheme, run by the Student Learning Advisory Service in partnership with academic schools, is designed to improve students’ academic performance and the overall experience of university.

KSA students have hugely benefited from their engagement with the scheme, both as mentors and mentees. As well as aiding their understanding of design, essay writing and time management, it has assisted in enhancing their employability prospects including their development of CVs, portfolios and job-hunting skills. This is the third year the School has been running the scheme, managed by Student Experience Manager, Ben Martin.