Raising the Bar
by Andrew Shurtleff
to right) Third-year student Jeremy Davis and fourth-years
Samuel Quaynor, Ermias Abebe and Sally Holmes study together
at a Black Study Hall session Feb. 8 in Cauthen Hall.
Brandon Marshall Miller
Going from high school
to college is daunting for everyone, especially for minority students.
When they leave home to confront new faces, places and expectations,
first-year students can be overwhelmed.
That’s why the Office
of African-American Affairs began the Peer Advisor Program
in 1984, a nationally recognized initiative that has helped U.Va.
achieve the highest graduation rate for African-American students
— 87 percent — at public universities in the country
for a decade.
That’s also why last spring, the OAAA launched a study hall
and tutoring session for first-year students dubbed “Black
Study Time.” Every Sunday and Tuesday evenings, from 8 to
10 p.m., peer advisors meet in Cauthen House, to tutor, assist
and advise students who need it. Two rooms are reserved —
one for quiet, individual study and the other for group work.
The study program is part of a continuing effort by the OAAA to
identify and respond to academic and social challenges faced by
minority students on Grounds. Two years ago, several peer advisors
saw a need to help incoming students adjust to the University’s
environment. They discussed sponsoring a conference and other
initiatives under the rubric of “Raising the Bar.”
In the fall of 2002, the Peer Advisor Program sponsored a “Raising
the Bar” conference. It also launched the BST sessions the
Sylvia Terry, associate dean of OAAA, said she views BST as a
pilot program. By limiting it to first-years for now, organizers
can see what is working and what is not. In the future, they hope
to broaden its scope to offer additional learning opportunities
and embrace other students.