Pete’s-Pals Mentoring Initiative

Faculty and staff in Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering have launched Pete’s-Pals within the School as a human-centric, active outreach initiative to connect with and mentor students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on early success, plans are underway for expansion to the entire College of Engineering.

The Name

“Pete’s-Pals” combines the name of University mascot Purdue Pete with “pen pals.” “Pals” refers to the student participants, as this program allows one-on-one human interaction.

The Need

In this unprecedented time, students can become overwhelmed and feel alone. Students, some of whose families live in other countries, may have financial, academic, relationship, and healthcare concerns. The COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions – including uncertainties, fear of the unknown, isolation, worries about loved ones, and too much information from multiple sources – have made many students vulnerable.

Purdue Engineering students receive e-data from at least 15 sources, including emails from Purdue, the College, professors, peers and marketing; social media, YouTube and Google; calls with parents and other relatives; and news reports of illness, job losses and other frightening topics. Adding to the complexity, the student body is growing in size, as well as in cultural, social, gender, economic and other diversity, and the number and types of student interactions are increasing.

The Solution

Pete’s-Pals is an inclusivity initiative that is simple and impactful.

Its goals are to:

  • Reach out to isolated students.
  • Contact students through real-time human interaction.
  • Engage students in conversations about their studies and other topics.
  • Communicate “I care and I am there,” reassuring students that at Purdue, we care and act, even during unprecedented times.

Examples of Pete’s-Pals in action include:

  • Pairing of students with faculty or staff mentors
  • Weekly or more frequent real-time conversations
  • Discussion of classes, hobbies, family well-being, and current student projects
  • Sharing of visuals of family, pets, food, plants, paintings, books and more
  • Text follow-ups, for instance, to share a website for writing time capsules

The Leadership Team

Eckhard A. Groll, the William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Mechanical Engineering and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has launched the Pete’s-Pals initiative in the pilot phase.  He is collaborating with the following people, in addition to other faculty and staff mentors:

  • Ajay P. Malshe, R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who conceived the idea and mechanism for the initiative
  • Mark Lundstrom, acting dean of the College of Engineering
  • Alina Alexeenko, associate dean for undergraduate education and professor of aeronautics and astronautics
  • Arvind Raman, executive associate dean of the faculty and staff, and Robert V. Adams Professor in Mechanical Engineering

How To Get Involved

Pete’s-Pals currently is open to all Mechanical Engineering students, faculty and staff.

Contact: Eckhard A. Groll, 765-496-2201,