In September, phones all over SoCal lit up with the same message, the bios for the new admits were up. By ourselves and in small groups, we plugged the link for our MFA program into our browsers. We held our faces close to our laptop screens to better see every freckle, smile line, and sun spot (or lack thereof) of the new recruit’s faces in the small photos next to their blurbs. We read the words they’d written about their selves in third person and wondered what they would be like IRL.
As a Peer Mentor, I have more frequent contact with this year’s incoming cohort than most second years. Second years are busier than first years, because we’re taking classes, teaching classes, and trying to finish up our thesis. We have offices that we spend our spare time on campus in versus the sticky 10-chair conference table in the lobby of our department, so chance conversations are harder to encounter. I remember this same unintentional divide existing last year and not really getting to know any of the second years very well until later in the academic year and by then it was nearly time to say good-bye to them.
Nonfiction is the smallest of the genres in my program, my year there are only four of us, none the previous year, and this incoming year has two writers. I’ve put energy toward getting to know them both and I am enjoying them both as people and writers and look forward to/I am benefitting from their fresh outlook on my work. I’ve also worked to pair up my mentees with writers in my cohort that would be beneficial to them as writers. I strongly believe in building up your network of writers and cross cohort connections are one of the easiest places to begin.