BY: KAYLA LASURE
Eastern’s College of Education has implemented three new programs to encourage student success.
One of these programs includes a peer educator pilot program launched last fall. This program pairs up upperclassmen education students with new education students.
“This past semester we only had seven peer mentor – peer learner pairs,” said Ryan Wilson, academic adviser and peer educator coordinator for the College of Education. “The mentors and learners would meet once a week for at least 30 minutes and we also encouraged them to meet some place other than their dorm rooms.”
Sarah Morrow, a 21-year-old special education and elementary education major from Bethel, Ohio, participated in this program as a peer mentor.
“My peer learner and I share a love for Starbucks,” Morrow said. “A typical meeting for us was spent sipping Starbucks on campus. I would start our meetings by answering any of the questions she had for me, if I didn’t have an answer for her questions I could typically point her in the right direction and help her find someone who could. After covering whatever business there was to cover we would sit and talk about the COE, what we liked and didn’t like, and swap stories about our favorite and least favorite classes and professors.”
Wilson said they had a 100 percent retention rate, and that all seven peer-learners returned back to Eastern this spring semester. He also said the group had an average of a 3.24 GPA.
The peer mentor positions are not paid and are completely voluntary. This program plans on hiring 32 peer educators during the fall semester.
“When presented with the opportunity to be a peer mentor, I was really excited because it was something I wish I could have had my freshman year of college,” said Erin Wood, a 21-year-old special education learning behavior disorders major from Cincinnati, Ohio. “[Mentors are] someone to talk to about the typical freshman problems of being homesick and time management from someone who had already been in my shoes instead of my peers who were going through the same issues with me.”
Morrow said this program was as much of a help to her as it was to her peer learner.
“I was very fortunate to be matched with such a wonderful peer learner,” Morrow said. “We had an instant connection and got along great. I gained a friend through this experience. I look at my peer learner as an equal who could very possibly be a future coworker. It was nice to be able to share my experiences with someone, both the good and the bad, in hopes that it would help them have a better experience.”
Just like with any new program, this one worked its way through all the problems it may have ran into.
“The most challenging part of this experience was that this program was just taking off and our small groups of peer tutors were the first ones to get this program up and running,” Wood said. “There was no talking to peer educators before us or going off of previous experiences. But Mr. Wilson was so helpful in meeting with us for progress checks every two weeks and letting us know what topics to cover during our sessions and how to make our meetings effective.”
Another program the College of Education is putting into the works is the placement of first-time freshman education majors in partnerships for their first and second semesters. This would mean they would place students in classes that had other education majors in them as well.
“We would place the students in a couple of the same classes, to give them someone familiar to study with or ask questions to if they have trouble,” Wilson said. “We would try to pair some of them in classes such as EDF 103, EDO 100, ENG 101, and the appropriate math course.”
The last program the College of Education is executing is the requirement of all first-time freshman education majors who live on campus to live in a living learning community (LLC). Wilson said right now the LLC for education majors is located in McGregor, but will expand to Commonwealth as well in the fall. “We just really want the students to make connections with one another,” Wilson said. “We want to help them adjust to college as easily as possible.”
Wilson also said that he hopes other colleges within Eastern Kentucky University start doing programs such as these.
“My goal for our programs, if they prove to be successful, is that is creates a model for other EKU colleges and departments,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t cost anything, so I don’t see why not to do it. I do admit, it’s a lot of extra work, but I want everyone to know we are willing to put in extra time to help students.”
Wilson said all of these programs are a collective effort from the department to help with student success and retention. He referred to the College of Education as the “COE family,” and wanted the same for the education students with the implementation of these programs. He said he wants the education students to feel like they were in a family connection atmosphere.