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Students spearhead Peer Mentor Summit

March 18, 2014
Lauren Nale

Lauren Nale

NIU has nearly 40 peer mentoring programs on campus, but participants rarely talk to each other to compare notes and successful strategies.

That’s about to change, thanks to the efforts of NIU students Lauren Nale and Luis Lopez.

The two honors students, who coordinate the University Honors peer mentoring group, are now spearheading a Peer Mentor Summit for NIU students, faculty and staff. The event will provide an opportunity to learn more about peer mentoring and how to get involved in efforts on campus.

It’s slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 28, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium.

“We just thought the summit would be a good idea because there are so many mentoring programs on campus, yet a lot of students don’t know about them,” says Nale, a senior health sciences major from New Lenox.

“The peer aspect of mentoring is very important because we’re all students, so we’re all on the same level,” Nale says. “Mentors help new students feel welcome and guide them through the nooks and crannies of transitioning to college.”

Peer Mentor Summit registration is free and available online, and all registered attendees will be treated to free lunch.

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez

“One of the strengths of NIU is its many resources, particularly in the area of mentoring,” said Lopez, an electrical engineering major. “I’ve had multiple mentors, including faculty, alumni, peers and people off campus. They really helped me, so I want to make sure all students have a chance to have a mentor and become a mentor.”

The summit will consist of presentations and interactive breakout discussions on topics related to professionalism, diversity, mentor-mentee relationships, the freshman experience and more. Representatives from mentoring programs across campus will be on hand to answer students’ questions about how to get involved.

“It’s important to reach out to younger students to let them know what NIU has to offer,” Nale says. “When I was a freshman in the Honors program, I built strong relationships with Honors House leaders, who encouraged me to get engaged in campus activities and provided me with resources that helped to enrich my undergraduate career.”

Eric Weldy, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at NIU, will be the summit’s keynote speaker.

Weldy, who is scheduled to speak from 10:15 to 11 a.m., has extensive experience working as a university administrator and a strong background in student affairs. He will share insights on the role mentoring has played in his journey and how it pertains to students right now.

Other speakers will include Michelle Bringas, director of the Asian American Center; Steven Barleen, associate director of the Academic Advising Center; and NIU students who serve as peer mentors.

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper

“This summit will bring together peer mentors from across campus to share best practices and discuss challenges associated with peer mentoring,” said Laurie Elish-Piper, acting deputy provost and a professor in the Department of Literacy Education. “This is a great opportunity for students, faculty and staff to network, share and learn about the many excellent peer mentoring programs at NIU. It’s even more impressive that students took the initiative in putting this all together.”

In response to President Doug Baker’s call to offer peer and alumni mentors to all students, NIU is in the midst of expanding its mentoring efforts. Elish-Piper, Associate Vice Provost Julia Spears and English professor Michael Day are leading the pilot First-Year Composition Peer Advocate Program, launched this semester in tandem with a pilot NIU Student-Alumni Mentoring Program.

The pilot programs are directed by a task force that also is inventorying the many existing mentoring programs already offered on campus, with an aim not to replace those programs but to build upon them.

After seeking feedback from students in the pilot programs, the task force will report its findings to the president in April. Findings will likely include recommendations for permanent campus-wide programs to launch next fall, in addition to existing programs.

The upcoming Peer Mentor Summit is sponsored by the University Honors Program, the Office of First-and Second-Year Experience, the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning and the Office of the Provost.

For more information, call (815) 753-0694 or email [email protected] or [email protected].