Partnering with a Peer Academic Leader
Nationally, student mentors are considered an extremely valuable component of first-year experience courses, as they provide positive academic student role models and assist faculty by bringing a student perspective of learning and campus life. We have a well-established group of highly trained students we call Peer Academic Leaders or PALs to integrate into the FYS courses.
Role of the Peer Academic Leader
Per class assigned, the PAL is expected to attend all of the FYS classes with the faculty member (three hours a week) and engage in an additional three hours outside of class per week in office hours and planning, study groups, or facilitating co-curricular programs. PALs are paid a wage for six hours per week. A PAL can be assigned up to two classes per semester based on recommendations, student workload, and previous experience.
The primary responsibilities of a PAL are to:
- Serve as an academic role model for entering students by sharing their own experiences and information on how to be successful at a university.
- Teach a designated number of class sessions on topics related to academic success strategies or campus connections as agreed upon by the faculty member and PAL.
- Assist the faculty member in the classroom by joining into class discussions, monitoring classroom activities, and helping students understand class material.
- Offer out-of-class assistance to students from the FYS course in office hours, organized study groups for the course, or co-curricular activities.
Peer Academic Leader Training
PALs are required to take UNIV 3335, taught by faculty and staff of University College, which includes at least 48 hours of contact time. PALs are also required to meet with the faculty members teaching the assigned first-year seminar to coordinate responsibilities. During training, PALs are taught the following:
- Academic self-management and study strategies content areas: time management, note-taking, active reading skills, test-taking and preparation skills, healthy lifestyles, and financial literacy.
- Effective teaching: lesson-planning, effective presentations, active learning strategies, rhythm of a class and classroom management skills. (Training would include a microteaching opportunity that would be peer- and instructor-reviewed.)
- Basics of effective mentoring: process, mentoring FY students through their transition, campus resources and referral process, professionalism, ethics, confidentiality, and boundaries, building community, and the problem solving cycle.
- Self-improvement: StrengthsQuest and application of strengths to academic life and FYS class experience, effective communication and listening skills, reflection of their own first-year experience, team-building, negotiation skills
PALs are required to create a portfolio that aids them in working with a first-year seminar and, ultimately, are to receive a passing grade in the training course to be assigned to a FYS course. PALs are also required to maintain a minimum semester and cumulative GPA of a 2.5 in order to remain in good standing.