Dr. Craig Kimmelblatt and Dr. Dolores Cimini – University at Albany
May 15, 2017
The Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program (University at Albany, NY) began in 1970 and has grown and expanded over the years to respond to the changing needs of college students and peer educators alike. Sustaining a large, well -known, and well-utilized service on our campus can in part be attributed to the advising and professional staff that supervises and mentors our students. As a permanent staff of two, we rely on a new set of graduate assistants and doctoral psychology interns that changes each academic year. These individuals instruct our credit bearing courses, train new members, provide clinical backup for our student-staffed hotline, and supervise our more experienced peer educators. Below we offer some ideas that have helped us effectively work during times of transition.
New staff can become quickly overwhelmed with the complexity of their job responsibilities, and we have taken several steps to try to assist new staff in getting acclimated to their leadership roles. We ask that the previous year’s staff prepare syllabi, forms, and materials before they leave at the end of the academic year to assist with the transition process. This allows us as permanent advisors to orient new staff to the organization without the need for them to worry about “reinventing the wheel.” Instead new staff can focus on learning about the program and getting ready for the arrival of our students.
We also practice incremental dosing of new staff training content with some “just in time” teaching for responsibilities and challenges that do not appear until mid or late semester. For tasks such as recommendation-writing and new peer educator recruitment and selection, for example, it is most efficient to provide such training at the time during the academic year when it is needed. Additionally, allowing for opportunities for both formal and informal avenues of supervision can be a way to facilitate the growth and learning that often needs to occur with new professionals.
Finally, although the ability to offer feedback and suggestions is incorporated throughout the academic year, we also block out considerable time near the end of our staff’s experience where we solicit and review feedback from them. Inviting them to revise, edit, and make changes to program operations that are informed by their experiences and successes throughout the academic year can allow them to leave a legacy with the program for years to come. Adhering to the successes of the past while placing energy on creating program innovation continues to motivate, revitalize, and recommit our work in training future advisors and, in turn, our peer educators.
Continue the conversation below- what things have you found helpful when starting? Is there an issue on campus you would like to hear more about? Email the BACCHUS Team with your suggestions!
The B-log highlights important peer education advising concepts. These “essentials” articles are featured here periodically, though you can always find them archived on the BACCHUS Homepage.
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