April 29, 2011
SBS Peer Advising Program Has Stellar First Year
Peer Advisors in the SBS Advising Center (left to right):
Daryus Johnson '12 (economics), Allison Barkauskas '12
(economics), Jessica Brown '11 (psychology/spanish),
Abbie Etim '12 (legal studies, sociology),
Kara Pascone '11 (legal studies), Ashley Stansbury '12
(journalism), Matthew Couillard '11 (communication)
Stop by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Advising Center any afternoon and you will be greeted by the energetic and talented Peer Advisors. In its freshman year, the SBS Peer Advising Program is charged with providing student-to-student connections to help undergraduates with their academic planning and offering an academic seminar for upper-level students who want to develop their leadership and helping skills.
The program was launched last fall with eight sophomores, juniors and seniors participating in a combination of in-class training and hands-on advising in the SBS Advising Center, Undergraduate Advising and in various departments. Since then the program has tripled in size, with a second seminar being offered and peer advisors stationed throughout the College.
Peer Advisors engage SBS students in discussion of their academic goals, help them select a way to fulfill the College’s Global Education Requirement, refer students to campus resources and major advisors, and more. Associate Dean Mark Lange, executive director of the SBS Advising Center, says, “Our Peer Advisors provide a link to advising services that staff cannot. Students often will talk to peers more readily than they will with staff members.” By virtue of their immediate personal and practical experience, Peer Advisors are prepared to counsel on how long it takes to get from one building to another, where to get the best coffee on campus, and how to balance studies and social life. “Peer Advisors become the kinds of citizens who positively impact the rest of the students with whom they come in contact on a daily basis—in the dorms, in their classes, and everywhere they go,” Lange adds.
Allison Barkauskas ’12 (economics) concurs. “We understand what it’s like to be a student at UMass. It’s easy to relate to our peers because we know about being in an RSO, having a part-time job, and being a full-time student, while juggling everything else that life throws at us.”
This is precisely the personal aspect of advising that Abasi-odu “Abbie” Etim ’12 (legal studies/sociology) enjoys most. “As a Peer Advisor, I have enhanced my ability to communicate effectively with students who are facing personal and academic problems, difficulties with roommates, or challenges adjusting to the social life of the university.” Etim believes she positively impacts students “simply by listening, relating to their struggles, and being able to provide support and referral to the campus resources that can help them meet their personal and academic goals.”
Peer Advisors participate in Majors Fairs, Open Houses, information sessions for new students and fun registration events in the First Year residence halls. Ashley Stansbury ’12 (journalism) has launched the Peer Advisors Facebook page and collaborates with the rest of the team in welcoming the Class of 2015 on their Facebook page.
Besides being a tremendous asset for SBS students, the program has also enriched the Peer Advisors’ undergraduate experiences. Daryus Johnson ’12 (economics) says that through the program’s guidance, he has acquired lifelong leadership and interpersonal skills, and discovered even more opportunities for students at UMass. “In helping my peers navigate their academics, I have found resources to help me prepare for life after UMass. Becoming a Peer Advisor is a great way to become more aware of what campus has to offer.”
“What began as a handful of model SBS students unified around the common goal of reaching their peers has blossomed into a group of inspired scholars, young professionals and student leaders, says PhD candidate Sophie Hemmerdinger MA ’10 (anthropology), who collaborates with the Peer Advisors and Lange on the program. “This first group serves as stellar ambassadors to the campus community and developed the skills necessary for success in college and in life.”
As the program grows, Peer Advisors continue to look for effective ways of supporting SBS student learning and growth. Currently they are planning programs and developing workshops, information sessions, and fun events to be implemented next fall.
If you have questions about the program or are interested in becoming a peer advisor, contact email@example.com
—by Peer Advisors Jessica Brown ’11 (psychology/Spanish) and Kara Pascone ’11 (legal studies)
Please note that Brown completed her Global Education Requirement before the Psychology Department moved from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to the College of Natural Sciences.