By Kaitlin Van Loon
The College of Journalism and Mass Communications academic advising team piloted a new peer mentor program in fall 2019 and fully implemented the program in fall 2020.
In the program, students are assigned a mentor in their First Year Experience class, a required course for all first-semester students in the college. Mentors help new students build relationships on campus and navigate college life.
“The hope of this program is that if these students don’t feel comfortable talking with an adviser or a faculty member that they have someone to go to,” said Andrea Gaghagen, assistant director of advising. “Students talk to their peers differently than they talk to us, and for a lot of these mentors, it’s their way of being involved and giving back to the college.”
The advising team also hoped the program would help peer mentors develop leadership skills while getting paid.
Throughout the semester, student mentors presented on topics they wish they had known as a freshman.
Sophomore sports media and communication major Jared DeHaan presented to mentees on student involvement, but he cautioned students not to get too involved in their first year.
Gaghagen said this particular presentation got some of the best feedback.
DeHaan’s favorite part of the job was the one-on-one sessions with his mentees. The students could choose to meet in person or over Zoom. He didn’t expect to bond so quickly with his mentees, but the organic conversation led to meetings that were over two hours long.
“This has been really good for me,” DeHaan said. “I’ve been able to practice interpersonal skills and communication that have led to friendships within the first few weeks of the semester.”
Peyton Stoike is a senior journalism and sports media communications major and remembers how clueless she was freshman year. Knowing she could help new students find their way around CoJMC is what made Stoike decide to apply for the peer mentorship program. Stoike also gives tours to prospective students as a CoJMC ambassador. The mentor program brought her full circle as she had given tours to some of her mentees when they were choosing to attend UNL.
“I remember something I said during my interview,” Stoike said. “At CoJMC our majors are all connected. It’s a ‘we’ mentality not a ‘me’ mentality. Having this program helps students establish a network right from the start.”
The peer mentoring program has been a resounding success and the college looks forward to building on that success in future years.