Improvements may soon be coming to the College’s peer advisor program.
While upperclassmen advisors relish the opportunity to help younger students, some feel that their helping hand is not always reached for. They would like to see improvements in the program that encourage additional interaction throughout the school year.
“I think it’s important to remember to give back to communities that have given to you, and I wanted to be able to provide my freshmen with the same open arms that I received when I first came to Penn,” College sophomore Lindsay Fisher said. “It’s really rewarding when I see a freshman from my peer advising group and they tell me about things that I was able to help them with.”
However, Fisher was disappointed that it seemed her responsibilities ended with the end of NSO. Of her 19 advisees, she says she was only able to develop a relationship with about three or four of them.
“I think the advising program should emphasize to both tutors and tutees that peer advisors are resources that can extend through the entire year and the years to come,” she said. “Peer advising should go beyond just a low-commitment resume booster to instead make an impact on freshmen college experiences.”
Mikie Sakanaka, also a College sophomore, wanted to be able to help incoming freshmen explore as much of Penn as she did in her first year here. She too, struggled to keep in contact with all of her advisees.
“It’s very hard as an advisor to get many of your advisees involved,” Sakanaka said. “There were some students who called me or emailed me a lot over the summer and the first few weeks, who I feel I was able to form a relationship with, and others who I only saw once or twice during NSO.”
Current advisors realize how much influence they can have with their advisees. Some even decided to become peer advisors simply because theirs had been such formative parts of their college experience. Many advisors want to make sure other students are taking full advantage of their resources.
“I know how important it was for me to have an upperclassman I could trust on campus, and I hoped to be that person for someone else,” College sophomore and peer advisor Samantha Rahmin said.
Rahmin is still close friends with her peer advisor, whom she had met over the summer before arriving at Penn. While she has been able to create similar bonds with some of her advisees, she feels that not all of them were looking to her for guidance.
“I feel that I have built a strong relationship with some of my peer advisees but others are not looking for a strong relationship,” she said. “I hope they know I am there for them, and I hope I can support them in a way they like.”
Susan Hassett, organizer of the College’s peer advisor program, is working on improvements for next year to strengthen the ties between freshmen and their peer advisors.
“We are seeking to create a stronger sense of community within the whole peer advisor program,” she said. “We are looking to grow opportunities for the peer advisors to continue engagement with the first-year students throughout the fall semester.”
Though improvements are on the horizon, Sakanaka believes that the peer advising program is already invaluable to those who make the most of it.
“I think one of the best things about the program is that it allows freshmen to come to campus knowing at least one upperclassman who they can ask questions to,” she said. “Although there are some imperfections about the program, there are people who really do benefit from the relationship between peer advisors and their advisees.”
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