In the 2011-2012 academic year, the Center created a way to share the success of current Peer Leaders and Alumni of our program. Alumni of our program include former student workers and LC students. These students may not be alumni of UC, but they are no longer with our program.
My name is Ariana Rinehart. I am a fourth year in Mechanical Engineering here at UC. This is my third year as a peer leader with the Center for First Year Experience’s Learning Community Program and my second year as a senior peer leader. The most recent learning communities I led were Construction Management and Mechanical Engineering Technology, but I have also led Civil and Architectural Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and FEP Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering LC’s. This year I am leading a Calculus II based LC.
I became a Peer Leader my sophomore year because as a freshman, I was enrolled in an LC. I’m still close friends with the kids that I was in Learning Community with and I wanted to become a part of the integral bonding experience that the LC creates. As a Peer Leader, I enjoy most the diversity of the students. Yes, sometimes they’re rowdy and boisterous, but once they become comfortable with you and a mutual level of respect ensues, it’s amazing the level of rapport that builds quarter by quarter. I personally believe that the effectiveness of the Learning Community is directly correlated with the level of effectiveness of the Peer Leader.
In each of my LC’s towards the beginning of our time together, I like to introduce difficult discussions. As the students are freshman in their first year of college with so many new experiences and people around them, it is important to keep them informed and be honest with them. I introduce difficult discussions of drugs, underage alcohol consumption and unprotected sex to level with the students and inform them of the dangers of these activities in a preemptive manner. By transforming this awkward discussion into a trivia style game and adding a level of competition, positive results have always incurred. I would encourage new Peer Leaders to consider this activity based on its effectiveness and highly serious nature wrapped in a fun, carefree game format. Being a Peer Leader isn’t just a job; you have a level of responsibility of your students and their actions. Helping them to make informed and constructive decisions is an unwritten aspect of the job description.
You have to anticipate the challenges that may arise and above all, you have to know your students. Per LC per quarter, I meet with each of my students, one-on-one, for fifteen minutes apiece, just to break the ice. Each student is a different puzzle and until you figure them each out and really start to understand them, it’s difficult to earn their respect and trust. The most crucial part of being a Peer Leader is mentoring your students without interrogating them or playing psychologist. You have to gauge each different LC based on the attitudes and interests of your students. Building that rapport, building those relationships is the most rewarding part of the job. If you can get them to bond and build lasting relationships with each other, you’ve been successful. Seeing you work through your students is truly inspiring.
My name is Heather Silverman and I graduated in June of 2012 with a degree in Fine Arts. During this time I also went along the Art Education track and received my Visual Arts teaching license. I was involved with the Center for three out of five years at UC. I began as the Peer Leader for the Envisioning Art and Design LC (all of my students who applied to DAAP got in!). The following year I served as a Peer Leader Captain and then last year I was the Undergraduate Assistant of Media and Communications.
My time at UC would have been completely different if I hadn't been involved with the Center. Before I graduated, I was sitting in my office thinking about all that I have learned the past three years. The center impacted me both academically and professionally. I networked and developed relationships with professors, different offices around campus, and student organizations. By developing and implementing activities as a PL and PLC, I was also improving on my time management and learning about different study techniques. Professionally, I became a stronger interviewee (by conducting interviews), was able to both be creative and analytical, and learned how to create programs and initiatives.
I currently have two positions. One is working for a before and after school program with elementary school students. I am also working as an assistant curator for an online art gallery. My time at the Center has helped me with my online gallery position because it has given me the communication skills needed to conduct a business and gave me web and creative opportunities. The Center will always have a special place in my heart and I encourage first year students to join an LC and for upperclassman to get involved!