Students at the University of Kansas likely know that academic advisers can be a lifeline for those struggling under the weight of academic pressure. However, students may not know that peer advisers can also be a useful resource.
The Undergraduate Advising Center currently employs 12 peer advisers, but other academic units throughout the University have smaller teams of peer advisers, said Michael Chavez, assistant director for the UAC and supervisor for the peer adviser program. The select group of peer advisers at the UAC are similar to professional staff advisers.
“Our peer advisers act like our first line of defense, if you will, with the UAC," Chavez said. "They help students with any kind of current semester academic issues that they may be experiencing, which could be anything from them maybe needing to talk about dropping a class … to even just conversations about exploring majors and minors.”
Like professional advisers, peer advisers help students with academics and enrollment. However, they also assist with students' emotional needs, such as adjustment to college and homesickness. Because of the variety of issues that they may be presented with, peer advisers go through intensive training that covers all aspects of college life.
Chavez said the peer advisers go through professional advising training alongside new professional staff.
"But the thing that makes them unique is that I also incorporate a peer educator training as part of their student development,” Chavez said. “Then they can have conversations that sometimes go beyond academics.”
Julie Jorgensen, a junior from Cedar Falls, Iowa, studying journalism, is a peer adviser. She believes the conversations that go beyond academia are what have the biggest impact on students and campus as a whole.
“I think our biggest impact on KU’s campus is building the relationships with students when we help them and are their friend,” Jorgensen said. “Everyone is a little bit lost when they go to college, and it’s important to have people around to help you out.”
Chavez agreed that students should speak with peer advisers so that they can understand that they are not alone at the University.
“One of the most important things that a new student needs to understand is that there are people here that can support them," Chavez said.