New College peer ambassadors pave way to student success
Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences is making life easier for its first-time students through its program featuring college ambassadors, peer mentors and residential life peer leaders who provide incoming students with advice, services and guidance to help them better enjoy their higher educational experience at the university’s West campus.
Examples abound. New College Peer Mentors created and facilitated six workshops for New College freshmen students during the 2009-10 academic year; the peers also held a January social to recognize freshmen who made the Dean’s List and the Peer Mentee Program Book Scholarship, the latter earning students financial aid for being active on campus; and the student leaders who make up the group spent time each week making connections with students and building a freshman community.
New College Ambassadors, meanwhile, represent a prestigious group of undergraduate student volunteers, providing exceptional students with the opportunity to develop professional communication and leaderships skills while also providing the college with essential recruitment and retention services.
New College Residential Life Peer Leaders provide assistance to first-time students in Las Casas, the West campus apartment-style complex. Leaders work with freshmen to create a community in their living environment, which helps support a successful academic and personal experience in their first year.
These valued emissaries have shared their experiences with prospective students and their families at ASU-sponsored events such as ASU Transfer Days, New College presentations at local high schools, campus and lab tours, and also while representing New College at local community colleges.
“Our peer mentor, leader and ambassador programs are important to participating students because they provide an opportunity for skill development,” said Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment for New College. “Leadership, communication, presenting, listening, writing, event planning and implementation, advocating and more – these are lifelong skills that our students develop while serving fellow students and New College.”
Patsy Reeve is program coordinator for the Peers and is part of a team that hand picks the students, based on a minimum 3.0 GPA and minimum sophomore standing. Nikki Bonnet coordinates the Ambassadors, while Becky Copland coordinates the Peer Leaders.
“We coordinate these programs with Anne’s guidance,” said Reeve. “She let us create and build the programs. Most of this is her vision. Every year the programs build and grow; they have a very powerful effect on New College freshmen.”
Peer Mentors usually spend 6-8 hours each week in offices in the New College Student Success department. Overall, they spend approximately 15 hours each week working with students, meeting and sharing academic resource information and referrals, as well as sending weekly emails and generally being available to mentor their peers.
Noting the Peer Mentor program mission statement, Reeve said, “The peers assist students with the challenges associated with the first-year college experience. Mentors are bridge-builders between students, academic faculty and the student service departments across the West campus.
“All of the peers are exceptional students and leaders on campus, and their time is spent making connections and building a freshman community.”
One of the Peer Mentors (the lead mentor, in fact) is Dhannia Torres, who worked with more than 100 students during the 2009-2010 school year. She says the experience helped her recognize herself as a leader.
“Each student is different from the next, and this helped me recognize the diversity of each student,” said Torres, who is an undergraduate research assistant in New College assistant professor Mary Burleson’s Emotion, Culture and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the West campus and expects to graduate in the spring of 2011 with a bachelor’s in psychology. “They have helped me see myself as a leader, which is a difficult thing, until you have the time to reflect on the amount of impact you have on these students.
“The first time I heard a student tell me that they look up to me was the first time I really looked at myself as a leader. In turn, this inspired me to go above and beyond in order to help these students succeed, because they are counting on me.”
On the Ambassador side, Nikki Bonnet coordinates the program and this year has created a leadership course that all selected Ambassadors will complete for a single credit.
“The course was created specifically for the Ambassadors to equip them with skills to interact with prospective students and their families to assist them with ASU admissions and higher education questions or concerns,” she said.
This year’s Ambassadors include students from all three New College divisions: Sophia Hussain, Audra Fischer, Viet Pham, Chelsea Mansfield, Jack Hilton, Micaela Gamboa, Dacia Simpson, Alexis Ariana Hermosillo.
Gloria Pena Ochoa is, like Peer Mentor Torres, a psychology major who expects to receive her bachelor’s degree at the end of the spring semester, 2011. She is passing her baton this year after serving as an Ambassador last year. She got involved because she wanted the West Valley community to know the many opportunities that exist at ASU, and she uses her own experience as a tool.
“Many students do not have the right guidance,” she said. “Some feel intimidated by the magnitude of college. I want to inform them about my story, how I got to ASU and how to be successful despite the tribulation that occurs in our lives.
“Being the oldest in my family of six, I wanted to set a good example. I took the initiative of always being on top of everything. I was never intimidated because I was determined to attend college and part of being an adult is taking the initiative to do things on my own. I got involved.”
She said the experience has its immediate and future benefits.
“The rewards are the contributions you make in the community and the positive changes you bring to the life of individual students – you make their lives easier while they are pursuing their degree. This experience will benefit me in the future because it has helped me evolve as a person and understand the different perspectives of others. This will help me grown as a person in my career field where I want to help others.”
This school year, the Residential Peer Leaders count students Micaela Gamboa and Perla Solorzano as group coordinators. The two will lead engaging activities for students both at Las Casas and on the West campus. Examples of some of the student events that will be directed by Gamboa and Solorzano include cooking lessons, study groups led by tutors from the campus Student Success office, and an open-door night to help residents get to know their neighbors.
“Students helping and mentoring other students is very much a part of the success of New College,” said Dean Elizabeth Langland. “The college experience can be very overwhelming, but with support and guidance from others who have lived the experience, we have developed a way to make the transition to higher education a seamless and enjoyable one.”
Peer Mentor Torres sums it up in a single sentence: “Establishing these programs to make sure that students have support during their first year is an example of how New College helps its students succeed.”
For more information on these programs, contact Anne Suzuki at (602) 543-6137 or Nikki Bonnet at (602) 543-6026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.