First Year Experience (FYE) is a UTSA program that houses over 150 peer mentors and is changing the lives of over 4,800 freshmen. Originally called Learning Communities, FYE is designed to help freshmen acclimate to a new college environment by connecting university freshmen with available resources.
The peer mentors seem open and adamant about the program; they “welcome freshman to get involved here,” senior Nate Tuthill said.
The peer mentors also learn from their mentees. While counselors are available to talk to students, students are often “willing to share more with the peer mentors due to faculty and staff intimidation,” said Associate Director Carmen Dunbar.
Guiding freshmen through college improves the peer mentors’ overall leadership qualities and bolsters the confidence of the freshmen mentees.
Some mentors noted that they initially felt nervous to speak in front of 50 freshmen. Peer mentor Selena Aguirre came up with a game plan to have a leg up on new mentees. She “first walked in and talked to them casually as if (she) were their peers, asking them about their major and classification” and getting to know them.
Because she met them personally, gauging and scoping them out as a person, she was less nervous to introduce herself as the peer mentor.
Providing “a foundation for research and inquiry… having knowledge to get ahead will be greatly beneficial” noted Program Coordinator Corina Aldape.
Students undergo various interviews to become a peer mentor. “We judge the potential candidates on their commitments to UTSA and if they are in any clubs or organizations. Their academic GPA must be 2.75 or higher, must have dependability and must maintain confidentiality with information given,” remarked Associate Director Carmen Dunbar. Mentors must, most importantly, be able to connect with all different kinds of students from diverse backgrounds.
UTSA is following the national trend to have peer mentors. FYE is a program that is a part of UTSA tradition. “We are growing with the university and we plan to be a permanent fixture here at UTSA,” remarked Program Coordinator Corina Aldape.