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Peer Leaders help engage first-year students

By Sam Nadolski

Questions like "What do I study, and how?," "What groups should I join?" and "Where in the world is that building?" fill the minds of first-year students. As they navigate their first semester, they look to find a person or group to help answer those questions. One outlet UA is using to help first-year students transition is the Office of First Year Experience (FYE) Peer Leaders program.

Peer Leaders are upperclassmen who serve as mentors, act as role models and assist with instruction in various freshman seminar courses, such as Freshman Learning Communities (FLCs) and Compass Courses, which connect freshmen and prepare them for life at the Capstone.

Additionally, Peer Leaders engage with students outside of the classroom. This aids in creating an approachable classroom environment.

"Peer Leaders are a high achieving, professional group of students who not only represent our office, but also UA," said Litsa Orban, assistant director for First Year Experience and Parent Programs.

 

The FYE office looks for students who have a passion to invest in first-year students, the ability to serve as a good resource and the desire to get more involved. Every person on the team is involved in at least one other on-campus organization. The 2014-2015 Peer Leader team consists of approximately 30 upperclassmen students who are from all different states and studying a variety of majors.

"No one person can be involved with everything," Orban said. "But collectively, this team is involved with every aspect of this campus."

Along with aiding in a class, Peer Leaders may take the UA 110 course, Peer Leader Fall Forum. In this class, students take time to reflect on what is happening in their classes and get advice from one another. This class also serves as a time for the team to collaborate and build unity. As they serve the campus, they also earn academic credit.

"Peer Leaders are such a big part of these incoming freshmen's experience," said Christina Kogat, an FYE graduate intern. "We look forward to helping this program grow even more in the upcoming years."

Peer Leaders, and other groups like it, help engage first-year students and maximize their peers' first year at UA.

To learn more about Peer Leaders, visit http://fye.ua.edu/peerleaders.cfm

This story is a part of Student Affairs Highlights, which spotlights students, staff, services and programs that are excelling within the Division of Student Affairs. View more stories at Student Affairs Highlights. Do you have a suggestion for a Student Affairs Highlights story? Email studentaffairs@ua.edu with your idea.