Lynn Zabel and Sara Rothberger, Academic Advising Interns, Edgewood College
Due to increasing student populations and the constantly evolving nature of student needs, more and more institutions are establishing peer advising programs. Edgewood College, a small liberal arts college in Madison, WI, has created and cultivated a successful and effective peer academic advising program that has brought numerous new opportunities to professional advisors which we believe will benefit any advising program looking to create or improve their peer program. Edgewood College has found that peer advisors provide professional advisors with assistance in managing their caseloads so the professional advisors are able to spend more time with certain populations of students.
The Peer Advising Program at Edgewood College began as a work study opportunity for students in 2003. Since then, it has evolved into a full internship program for undergraduate students with increased pay and opportunities to attend professional conferences. The program was developed in order to utilize the benefits of peer to peer mentoring relationships with advisees, allow professional advisors to incorporate students into their work, and educate peer advisors about the concepts and opportunities of a career in academic advising. Peer advisors work directly with the Director of Undergraduate Advising, with the professional advising staff, and with students.
Edgewood College has seven professional advisors on staff, with four currently employing peer advisors. As peer advisors, students perform a variety of duties including assisting the professional advising staff in preparing and facilitating student meetings, connecting students to the appropriate campus resources, providing a student perspective among the professional advising staff, carrying out research projects, and presenting at statewide and national conferences. The cooperating professional advisors have indicated there are numerous benefits to working with a peer advisor, such as serving as a mentor for the peer advisor by educating peers about advising concepts and having increased time to spend meeting with individual students.
Being a peer advisor has numerous benefits for the students as well. The peer advising program allows interns the opportunity to establish a professional skill set, including improved interpersonal communication, professional etiquette, working with a diverse population of students, and developing and presenting research at professional conferences. Lynn Zabel and Sara Rothberger, two current peer advisors at Edgewood College, share personal testimony to the experiences and strengths they have gained throughout their time as a peer advisor.
Lynn Zabel, a junior at Edgewood College, comments on the personal growth she has experienced being a peer advisor:
Becoming a Peer Advisor has changed my life and my sense of community so greatly, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity. When I was referred to apply by my advisor at the time, I had no idea what a peer advisor did, let alone the vast life lessons I would learn. I have spent almost two years learning everything from meeting with students, to communicating effectively with faculty, to developing a strongprofessional base. It takes time and great patience to learn new concepts and adjust to working with new people, but overall I think it has made me a much better advisor, student, and member of the college community. I believe that the most rewarding aspect of my position is that I get to sit down with students and have a close conversation with them that they feel comfortable with. They get to have a student-to-student interaction, which can give them many new advantages. I truly enjoy listening to a student describe what their dreams are, and then sitting down and making a plan to make those dreams come true. It is not every day or in every profession that you get to do this, and I have the honor of doing it as an undergraduate student. My time as peer advisor has been so enriching, and I look forward to the many opportunities and lessons that are still in my future.
Sara Rothberger, a senior at Edgewood College, illustrates the knowledge and skills she gained through her time as a peer advisor:
Edgewood College prides itself on making academic advising an essential part of each student’s academic plan. As a peer advisor, I feel it is my responsibility to be an accurate and reliable resource for students,not only as a reference guide but also someone to confide in as well. I try to connect on a personal level with each student I advise in an attempt to make their experience at Edgewood College both memorable and valuable with an aim to prepare the student for his or her next step in life. As a peer advisor, I feel I am able to relate to students in a way the professional staff may not be able to as I am a student myself and have had experiences similar to those of my advisees. Being able to help students solve problems and grow as individuals is a very rewarding feeling and has become an integral part of my approach to peer advising. I feel there is mutual growth in an advising relationship as I am able to help the student feel more confident about his or her academic plan or college life and the student in turn helps me to gain interpersonal skills and a sense of professionalism. The opportunity to be a peer advisor has been both a challenge and an opportunity for me to grow on both professional and individual levels. I hope to continue my current techniques but also continuously strive for improvement in the future.
The addition of a peer advising program can be an asset to any academic advising program. Peer advisors allow for multidimensional advising relationships and the opportunity to utilize a student perspective, and provide professional growth opportunities for undergraduate students serving as peer advisors. The countless benefits experienced by both the professional advising staff and peer advisors demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. Taking small steps toward implementing a peer advising program makes a huge difference. Students are the future; let their voices be heard.
Senior Academic Advising Intern
Senior Academic Advising Intern
Cite this article using APA style as: Zabel, L. & Rothberger, S. (2012, June). Peer advising: Bridging the gap between professional advisor and students. Academic Advising Today, 35(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]