COLA Connections Newsletter: Fall 2016

Your Peer Mentors Ponder Their Role in COLA

Each year, the College of Liberal Arts designates an upperclassman from each degree program to act as their major’s Peer Mentor. These experienced students act as a resource that is available to all the students in the College, whether just starting out in their 1st semester, or finishing up their senior year.

So, what is a Peer Mentor? Well, as the name suggests, they are students who have been through all the anxieties of the early college years and can assist and mentor students to be successful in their program, both academically and socially. Peer Mentors are available to answer any questions the students might have about classes and professors, as well as host fun events throughout the year to get students engaged. (So if you like free coffee and treats, it’s a good idea to get to know your department’s Peer Mentor!)

But what do they think about their role? How to they see themselves in the College and their departments? Why do they do what they do?  Let’s ask…

What does it mean to be a peer mentor?

Devann Lowe (Psychology): To be a role model for people. Not only the freshman, but for all students to show them what it means to be a student but also have a balance of social life. You need to integrate both or else something will slip, whether it’s your grades or your sanity.

Devon Southwick (Economics): One of my goals is to make sure everyone, especially the newer students, have someone they recognize and are familiar with in the department. Being new to the department can seem overwhelming. If you don't know anyone, having an upperclassman who you do know and can say “hi” to makes it feel like everything else is a lot more accessible. I think that's a really essential part of being a peer mentor

Lizzie Dzivulsky (Public Policy):  I see it as helping my old self, someone who had a lot of questions and felt lost. To connect with the student and bridge the gap between the department head and student. And just have a friend.


What advice do you give students?

Devan Lowe: When I was a freshman, I never asked questions. My biggest advice is to get help if you need it. Struggling in silence is always the worst way to struggle. We are also here to bridge that gap of where students can go and vent, or talk about what’s going on with them.

Taryn Brennan (International and Global Studies): Get to know your faculty. Don’t be afraid to go and ask for help. That's how you get to know them! Just go and talk to them, talk to them about class or about life in general. It makes your education experience that much fuller.


What are some of your favorite events?

Casira Copes (Advertising & Public Relations): Open houses, because then I get to meet with prospective students, too! Open houses are a critical time when people come to seriously look at RIT and potentially make it a part of their future. It’s cool to get to be part of that process where they are making the decision, answering their questions and alleviating their fears about coming to college. It is very rewarding because if you do the peer mentor program for two years like I have, you get to see prospective students become your freshmen, which is really cool.


How are peer mentors useful to upperclassmen?

Devann Lowe: It's definitely a little more difficult to get in touch with older students and they don't really interact with us like the younger classman do, but last year I had an upper level student ask me for help with homework. So if you've taken one of these classes and you're not following, that's something we could help in.

Chris Ballet (Political Science): Upperclassmen sometimes just come to me and they don't see me as a “Peer Mentor,” but just as a knowledgeable student who is in their program. So they have questions in the same way you would ask a class mate or someone who is in a similar position as you.


What do you hope to get out of being a peer mentor?

Lizzie Dzivulsky - My personal goal is to just get closer to the different communities within the College and become part of the COLA community as a whole.

Chris Ballet: My biggest goal is to get the students involved, especially the first year students. To get them to come to the events and get them to interact with their fellow students in the program and get them to go and engage their professors in interesting discussions. If that happens, it means I helped someone have a great college experience.