COP faculty and staff mentor undergrads

Rebekah JackowskiNine members of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (including Rebekah Jackowski, right) and the director of student services are participating in the Arizona Assurance program, helping more than 20 undergraduates succeed as university students.

Katie Matthias, David Nix, Brian Erstad, Jeannie Lee, Elizabeth Hall-Lipsy, Hanna Phan, Rebekah Jackowski, David Lee, Ted Tong and Barbara Collins have all joined the program. They will each mentor at least two freshmen who have indicated an interest in going to pharmacy school.

Arizona Assurance is a UA program that provides financial assistance for in-state students who normally would not be able to afford to attend college. Most of the students are first-generation college students from low-income families who have been accepted to UA on their own merits. The students, who must be from Arizona, receive a grant that covers tuition, room and board, books and fees.

“I was a student who needed aid,” Erstad says. “These are students from families who have hardships and need assistance. I thought if I’m going to volunteer for something, this is it.”

Other COP mentors express similar reasons for participating.

“I was a first-generation college student, so I know what these students are going through,” Jackowski says. “There are questions about financial aid and everyday stuff they will have that I had when I was a student.”

One of Jackowski’s mentees, Anna Villa, has been in the program only since the beginning of the school year, and she is already seeing how Arizona Assurance can help her out.

“Coming from a low-income family, the Arizona Assurance Program has given me the opportunity to continue with my education, making it a lot less of a struggle for my parents,” Villa says.

The program, which is campuswide, has about 1,100 students and 500 mentors who answer questions. The students are required to meet with their mentors twice a semester their freshman year and have to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.

“There is an introduction dinner with them set up by Arizona Assurance program and then we met with them as a group and had lunch,” Jackowski says. “They can meet with us outside of those if they have any questions or concerns.”

Anthony Giang, another Arizona Assurance student, attended the dinner and thought it was a great way to be introduced to Jackowski, his mentor.

“It was a relaxing event where we just got to meet our mentors,” Giang says. “It was nice how they made our mentor someone who was related to our major.”

Not all mentors are mentoring students in their particular field. Jeannie Lee’s student scholar mentee plans to student criminal justice. Other majors of mentees of the College of Pharmacy include undecided, chemistry, linguistics and microbiology.

Villa found that her initial meeting with Jackowski at the dinner reinforced her decision to pursue a degree in pharmacy.

“Rebekah told me about the different environments she has worked in, which then led her to talking about her current position at the College of Pharmacy,” Villa says. “Everything we talked about was very interesting and made me realize how much I want to follow her path and someday become a doctor of pharmacy.”

While mentors are not required to meet collectively, the COP group likes the mentors and students (past and present) to gather.

“We try to have a group meeting to show that you don’t just have to talk to one of us but we are all available to help them out,” Erstad says.

For more information about the Arizona Assurance program go to their website.