Peering into the Challenges of Student Outreach

Josiah Willard leading a workshop hosted by the student success peer mentors. (Chris Chavez/The Indy)

Peer mentors who work in the student success department say they are not able to help and be the voice of the students as effectively as they would like to be.

According to Clark’s website, The Student Success Peer Mentor Program works to help students by hosting workshops, making classroom visits and working one-on-one with students. However, peer mentors feel like their success is hindered due to a lack of visibility and representation for the program.

Ian Gantz, who has been a peer mentor for two years, feels that the mentors should be involved in a larger leadership position then they currently have.

If the peer mentor program had a higher budget, they could hold more student involvement events like luncheons and movies. An increased budget would also provide a better way to advertise the program, Gantz said.   

Melissa Williams, the program director for student success, says the student success department has been lucky with the budget cuts compared to other departments. However, in the 2019-2020 school year, they will only be able to hire two peer mentors for the program compared to the three they have hired in previous years.

Having fewer peer mentors will make it more difficult for students to access resources, Gantz said. According to Williams however, peer mentors will still be able to do a lot with student outreach.

Quite often connecting with students doesn’t require anything costly or elaborate,” Williams said.

The peer mentors hosted a student success workshop on Feb. 5, but only three students attended the workshop. There was no advertising for the event on Clark’s website.

“It can be hard to market and advertise a smaller department,” Williams said.

Another peer mentor, Taylor Mata, said one way to help increase visibility is through more in-class visits.

“Nobody knows that we are here to help them,” Mata said.

“We have done in class visits here and there,” Williams said. “This term we did a massive outreach to faculty.”

During Winter quarter, the peer mentors are doing 15 classroom visits and are hoping to do more during Spring quarter and beyond.

Williams said the class visits are in addition to approximately 300 calls the peer mentors make.

Josiah Willard (right) helping Alyssa Brown fill out an academic strength survey. (Chris Chavez/The Indy)

Josiah Willard, one of the three peer mentors who work for student success says he will spend most of his day making calls to students and pointing them to different resources both on and off campus to help them succeed.

The peer mentor program is part of Clark’s early warning system called Penguin Alert for Student Success.   

“We get a database full of students who have penguin alert for student success, ” said  Willard. “We call them and say ‘hey…is everything okay do you need any support.’”

“It gives them a sense that somebody is looking out for them on campus,” Mata said, who makes about 20 calls a month to students.

According to Williams, peer mentors have a significant role in student leadership, event though their actions are not public. However, she believes that peer mentors have room to grow their visible leadership, she said.

“We are directly dealing with students who express their personal concerns to us,” Gantz said. “Those kinds of decisions I believe we should be a part of.”   

Gantz said that you can barely see any involvement of peer mentors and student leadership, saying that he feels the difference of student leaders divided this year have increased.

There is barely any involvement between peer mentors and student leadership, he said. Especially this year, Gantz feels like the divide has grown with the difference of student leaders.

“We’re all in the same group, technically on the same level,” he said. “Everybody should have a word regarding those kinds of decisions.”

Gantz would like to see the peer mentors become more involved in the planning of campus events not only to express the concerns students bring to them but to also increase visibility.

Even with all the problems the program has, Willard says he loves his job and he feels he is making a difference.

“Sometimes I feel I can’t do enough… but I do what I can and that is what matters,” Willard said.

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