Inside the program 

ITMO.Mentors kicked off in September 2020, amidst the pandemic and the switch to online learning, not only to give students the opportunity to try their hand at teaching and then join the university’s staff in the future but also reduce the teaching load by letting mentors partially take over some of the lecturers’ responsibilities. 

Implemented by ITMO's Faculty Support Office, the program is meant primarily for Master’s and PhD students. Prior to joining the project, candidates have to undergo a preliminary selection. Within the first run of the program, participants were offered two tracks: for those with teaching experience and those without it.

Regardless of their background, all participants had a compulsory three-month training course, with the only difference that in the first track, students had to take 32 and in the second – 108 academic hours. During the course, students learned more about ITMO’s educational activities and the fundamentals of teaching, as well as had taught first classes. After that, for three months, they helped lecturers review assignments, prepare for classes, and conduct practical and laboratory projects. At the end of the course, all the graduates were presented with a professional training certificate.

The program annually welcomes around 300 students, 80% of whom successfully complete the course. Some graduates then stay at the university to teach or assist lecturers in their work. 

“In 2020, we employed 25 mentors, both full- and part-time, and expect to see even more familiar faces this year,” shares Kristina Ivanova, the head of the Faculty Support Office.

An ITMO.Mentors meeting at ITMO in 2020. Credit: ITMO.NEWS

An ITMO.Mentors meeting at ITMO in 2020. Credit: ITMO.NEWS

Training courses

The university updates the material covered in the ITMO.Mentors annually. In 2020, the first-track mentors could choose practical classes to improve their skills. For instance, if a student was well-versed in how to speak in public yet tended to lose their audience’s attention during their speech, they could focus more on classes they actually needed. 

In the following year, Faculty Support Office’s staff member Ekaterina Bezyzvestnykh added variety to the program’s content by offering different topics and formats (online or offline) within one course so that students could pick what they genuinely enjoyed and what worked best for them. 

Apart from new courses and mentor webinars, this year’s participants had the chance to go to Yagondoe to take part in a business game where they explored science, entrepreneurship, teaching, and administration, as well as solved various tasks and boosted their soft skills.

ITMO mentors in Yagodnoe. Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

ITMO mentors in Yagodnoe. Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

What to expect this year

Since the launch of the program traditionally goes hand in hand with the start of the new academic year, students who just joined ITMO may have a harder time as they have to both take mentorship classes and adapt to university life, start working on their theses, and look for supervisors. To make it easier for newcomers, the organizers of ITMO.Mentors decided to change the application deadline for the second track. This year, first-year students can apply in late January to start their training in spring and assist lecturers in fall. Follow the official VK page for more updates. 

There will also be changes in the program’s curriculum. 

“There is a widespread opinion that group and project work inefficient when it comes to studying engineering or natural sciences. That is, in fact, not true. Knowing that these formats are universal, we’re going to break this stereotype with our new course on teaching methods in exact sciences,” says Kristina Ivanova. 

Kristina Ivanova. Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev / ITMO.NEWS

Kristina Ivanova. Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev / ITMO.NEWS

The organizers also plan to create a mentor community to bring together all the graduates of the program. 

“When we were in Yagodnoe, some of our students shared that they enjoyed meeting other mentors and like-minded people, which made us all feel like part of a community. We will carry on with joint events this year, too. We plan to have one event in the beginning of the program and then go together on a trip to Yagondoe in the end. Such events inspire us and show that what we do is worth it. Once a mentor – always a mentor,” shares Kristina Ivanova. 

Student reviews

Artem Tokarev

a Master’s graduate, Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations

Artem Tokarev. Photo courtesy of the subject

Artem Tokarev. Photo courtesy of the subject

I acquired an interest in teaching when I was organizing events for school and Bachelor’s students and trying to open something like ITMO Adapters for newcomers. After that, I got to teach economics to 10-11th graders. When I learned about ITMO.Mentors, I realized that I want to try myself in this field and finally decide on whether I should get a PhD. 

I was fortunate to be a mentor for two years in a row instead of one. First, I applied for a particular course, Creative Technologies, and then, once ITMO.Mentors appeared, the organizers made an exception and I continued to study and work as a mentor. 

Throughout my studies, I assisted two lecturers: Valeria Mostovaya and Natalia Karaseva. I helped them check homework and prepare for classes. That was a valuable experience. I also enjoyed  optional workshops – in particular on working with “difficult” students and on time management, which is beneficial for all. After mentoring for two years, I feel even more driven to teach at the university, so I’m doing my PhD this year. 

Olga Grekova 

A second-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations

Olga Grekova (left). Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

Olga Grekova (left). Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

I try to catch in every available opportunity. So, when I came across ITMO.Mentors, I knew that it was an excellent chance to master a new skill and start teaching at ITMO. But that’s not it – I also love talking to people and sharing useful practices both in work and life, especially on the subject of soft skills, and see a return on my efforts. 

Together with Marina Kazantseva, we did two courses: Communication and Teamwork Skills and Public Speaking. I helped her with assignments and suggested new activities, be it a podcast or a book on a certain topic. I even got to hold my own classes! I was nervous at first but then I felt better after I came up with a few funny examples from my life in class. 

I also went to Yagodnoe this June. When I was in the program, I didn’t really know many other mentors, so it was nice to finally meet them, play the game together, and learn what they did throughout their studies. 

Thanks to ITMO.Mentors, I learned to organize and hold classes, as well as explored other teaching styles. Some people love doing science and writing papers, while others, like me, enjoy teaching. That’s why I’d like to become a lecturer at ITMO.  

Varvara Petriy

A second-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Ecotechnologies 

Varvara Petriy. Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

Varvara Petriy. Photo by Amina Aleeva / Megabyte Media

My dad is a teacher so this field has always been close to my heart. In fact, I always tried to explain the material to my classmates, instead of simply letting them copy my work. So, I’m happy I got to take part in this program. 

I’m glad that I had the chance to work with three lecturers. First, we held a quiz on the best available technologies with Marina Kustikova and another mentor Alina Sheryaeva. We checked how well versed our students were in the Russian environmental state standards. Those are complex topics to deal with but we did our best to make them more exciting and engaging. 

Then in the second semester, I helped EduStars winner Valeria Limonova with her courses Communication and Teamwork Skills and Public Speaking. I assisted with practical training and even ran for best mentor. Though I didn’t win, I will try once again next year. I also taught an optional course in academic skills with Yulia Romanenko and graded assignments. 

It’s awesome that ITMO lets students unleash their potential, communicate with experienced lecturers, and be a part of such a close-knit community.