community: Peer advisors offer support
Brianne M. Jones
Jones, a third-year student majoring in government and economics,
came to U.Va. as an out-of-state student from Texas. Like many
students entering college, she was anxious about meeting new people,
but her fears were tamed when her peer advisor started corresponding
Terry (above) has done a tremendous job with the Peer Advisors
program, taking it from small beginnings to a program of national
stature, said OAAA dean Rick Turner.
peer advisor called me, sent me letters, e-mails and a card over
the summer so that I would already know someone once I got to
Charlottesville, she said.
peer advisor was always supportive and resourceful, which helped
make the pressures of first year bearable. She was always
a person I could go to with all of my questions, she said.
After my first year, we just stayed friends.
to her positive experience, Jones decided to become a peer advisor.
are chosen through a competitive selection process and must complete
several training sessions. They are responsible for at least five
new students each year. Now in her second year as an advisor,
Jones says she welcomes her advisees the same way she was welcomed.
better serve as a link between admitting and retaining black students,
the Office of African-American
Affairs developed the Peer Advisor Program in 1984. Associate
dean Sylvia Terry who became director in 1989, said, the program
consists of the three tiers of retention outreach,
programming and personal meetings with first-year students.
outreach arm of the program involves establishing contact with
incoming first-years over the summer to let them know that someone
eagerly awaits their arrival. Once the new students are on Grounds,
advisors contact them regularly and answer any questions they
may have, directing them to academic and social resources.
also encourage their advisees to take ownership of their student
experience. Advisors emphasize getting involved in various organizations
and activities as a way to become more familiar with U.Va. and
other black students.
boasts one of the highest retention and graduation rates for African-American
students in the country even higher than that of historically
black colleges and universities. Through the personalized, individual
support that the Peer Advisor Program provides, new black students
reach a comfort level with other people and their surroundings,
which, according to Terry, increases their chances of remaining
at U.Va. and ultimately graduating.
breeding future advisors, perhaps the greatest benefits of the
program are the relationships and friendships that it forms. Jones
is proud of the friendship she maintains with her former peer
advisor and admits being close to her advisees from this year
as well as last. Once someone is my advisee, she said,
theyre always my advisee.
article is a shorter version of a longer piece published in A&S
Online, August 2001.