Once they put on that blue Polo shirt, Seton Hall’s Peer Advisers (PAs) take on a number of responsibilities. From acting as representatives of the University during open house events to serving as navigators who help guide freshmen through the college experience, it is job that changed many of their lives.
According to Ruben Antunez, a junior public relations major going into his second year as a PA, when he first came to campus, he had trouble finding where he belonged. He explained that, once he found his fit, he felt inspired to help incoming freshmen do the same. Antunez added that he has been able to grow closer to his fellow PAs during his time on the team.
“They are such a great group of people that I have yet to find another group like the Peer Advisers,” he said. “I’ve never felt so comfortable with a group so quickly.”
Peer Advisers go through a oneweek training process and two weeks of Pirate Adventure together each year. Training includes discussions and workshops, ranging from presentations about the functions of each department on campus to instruction on how to handle a variety of situations that may arise within the peer groups.
In addition, the team attends a camp for two days in the summer where they have an opportunity to learn more about each other and their duties. In these two days, the PAs have the camping experience many would consider classic, including making bonfires and having s’mores. According to Yvonne Pruitt, a senior theater major and third-year PA, her first experience at camp allowed her to grow with her fellow PAs as friends, eventually seeing them as family.
“There’s something about camp, you may go in not knowing anyone or not really clicking with anyone,” Pruitt said. “When you leave, everyone is super tight. I laughed, I cried, I cried until I laughed.”
However, it also seems important to the PAs that they bond with and grow closer to their freshmen peer groups.
Director of First-Year Initiatives and a supervisor to the PAs, Nicole Battaglia, said that PAs are assigned to certain peer groups based on scheduling. PAs match with the University Life classes that align with their availability during the semester.
Pruitt explained that it is part of a PA’s job to keep in touch with his or her freshmen throughout the year and make sure they are getting acclimated to college life. In the spirit of this, other than their roles as co-teachers in University Life, each PA has office hours split up among the Transfer Center, Academic Resource Center and Freshmen Studies.
Antunez explained that he connects with his freshmen by making time to meet with them once a week during the semester. He said he may occasionally take them to a Student Activities Board meeting, an organization in which Antunez is a member, so that the freshmen can have an idea of the opportunities around them.
Anthony Toung Cheong, a senior chemistry major in his second year as a PA, said, though he has had nearly 120 students during his time as a PA, he enjoyed meeting all of them and learning their unique personalities.
Similarly, James Maglione, a junior psychology major going into his second year as a PA, said that working with students helped him learn more about himself.
“Being a Peer Adviser has really helped me find my passion,” he said. “I have learned how much I would love to work in a school setting in the future, which is why I am extremely grateful to be a Peer Adviser.”
Pruitt said that being a PA is a rewarding experience in part because the position offers an important lesson in responsibility.
“It has been a rewarding experience both when I have my polo on and when I have my polo off,” she said.
Julie Trien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.